New Surfaces

In Michael Dennis Browne’s What the Poem Wants, in an essay on the attractive topic of failure, I find this, from José Ortega y Gasset:

So many things fail to interest us, simply because they don’t find in us enough surfaces on which to live, and what we have to do then is increase the number of planes in our mind so that a much larger number of themes can find a place in it at the same time.

On which Browne expands this way:

Imagine a flock of several hundred birds looking, toward the end of day, for a place to spend the night. They fly past the tree that has only a branch or two and a mere couple of dozen twigs—not enough room for them, not nearly enough surfaces. When they detect a tree that has many branches, multiple twigs, that’s where they land and settle in. In my own experience, there are plenty of poems I have failed to write, or to complete, because I wasn’t able to provide enough surfaces for landing, and so some potentially powerful visions went on by. An image is, says Pound, a “visual chord,” is “that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time,” and the imagination needs to be constantly renewing itself, putting forth new areas, landing sites, if it is to receive the new subjects and new language that constantly propose themselves to us.


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