(Part Two of Two) Do you remember last Tuesday? While riding in my car, Professor Harold Bloom of Yale University told me that "[Wallace Stevens] tends to negate by grammar but affirm by syntax." Oh Dr. Bloom! What ever could you mean? Bob K. the moderator of the Using English forum, describes Syntax this way:
It's the order that you put words in, much as a tactician deploys troops for various effects. (Note: The second syllable of syntax is a clue to its relationship to the word 'tactics'.)
So what does this syntax business have to do with Molly and the various forms of Bloom (Harold, Joyce, and Bendall)?
Prose writers have it tough (or is that easy?): when James Joyce launches on the final passage of Ulysses or William Faulkner speaks as Benjy in The Sound and the Fury, they create a great deal of drama and energy with evocative, strangely-ordered prose (portraying respectively sexual arousal and the texture of an adult mind with Down Syndrome).
But poets have—not one but—two exciting tactical ways to use syntax (a.k.a. word order). Let's call them:
1. The discursive way (spells, lists, questions, imperatives, fragments—evocative issues of order in utterance)
2. The Wallace Stevens way (a carefully-considered issue of arrangement along the line and between the line)
So when Harold Bloom says of Wallace Stevens that ""he's a great master of syntax" and then explains that "enjambment is not an effect of grammar at all, but purely of syntax" he means to point us toward a way to read Wallace Stevens.
"The Poems of our Climate" (a poem about a flower arrangement; "pink and white carnations" in a "brilliant bowl") concludes in a lovely but very strange manner:
The imperfect is our paradise.
Note that, in this bitterness, delight,
Since the imperfect is so hot in us,
Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds
Okay, since my point here is related to word-order, I'm going to scandalously reorder the poem's final stanza for the sake of argument. (I'm also going to split an infinitive.) Are you still with me? I think (presumptuously) the sense of the line reads:
The imperfect is our paradise. And since the imperfect is so hot in us, note that, in this bitterness, delight lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.
But between the enjambment of that end-word "delight" and the shifty nature of that front-word "Lies" is a Word Order Shocker (!): a whole phrase inserted between. Hence, delight also crumbles back to its double-existence as pure pleasure and Lies stands up on its own, seeming to merely dissemble. This issue of placement (syntax) then subverts and expands the potential literal sense (grammar).
As James Joyce put it: Oh
yes to say yes my mountain flower…and his heart was going like mad
My very dear Uncle Wally, Come play "syntax" with my mind some more!