Sunday December 16, 2018

Such rich and various object- and person-oriented ontologies represented in the opening shots of Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma. Class and racism are woven into the sights and sounds of the film’s riveting black-and-white portrait of a domestic worker in 1970s Mexico City. Social reproduction is an immense labor — and I worry that because of late-capitalist melancholia, I’ve failed in the past to adequately perform my share. History always felt distant, elsewhere than the level of personal destiny. And yet here we are, working to transform life into a source of poetry, a space of plenty, each day’s activity dealt with imaginatively. As Denis Donoghue says in his book on Yeats, “The idea of self-transformation is implicit in any Romanticism that takes itself seriously, where imagination is deemed a creative faculty and the self its final concern” (8). What is the alternative? The eternalism of the block universe, wherein “the Empire never ended”? Donoghue’s “penury of the given”? In that case, one might as well just announce oneself the Owl of Minerva, or the anima mundi, evoking via hindsight a universe of narrative “hospitable to miracle, the occult, and magic” (16-17). Of course, in the block universe, a thing matters only inasmuch as it must. Worlds ought instead to be listened for, their revealing sung. I aspire to serve not as an “erotic poet” like Yeats, but as what R.P. Blackmur called a “sacramental poet” — one who “respects the object for itself but even more for the spirit which, however mysteriously, it contains” (24). And to respect the object is not simply to belabor it, but to aid and await its realization.

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