I was in a typical hotspot L.A. restaurant with a friend, also a poet, ordering sushi. I asked for the spicy tuna roll without the cucumber. "That will be an extra charge of 50 cents to take the cucumber out," the beautiful waitress said, looking around the room as if she was bored or feeling apologetic disdain. My friend leaned forward aghast: "An extra charge to take something out?" I thought about it for a moment. What comes out of a poem, what is missing from a poem, is as important as what is left in, and certainly worth more than 50 cents.
In one of her best-known essays, The Aesthetics of Silence, Susan Sontag might as well be talking about poetry when she says, "Silence and allied ideas ( like emptiness, reduction, the 'zero degree' ) are boundary notions with a very complex set of uses... the artist who creates silence or emptiness must produce something dialectical: a full void, an enriching emptiness, a resonating or eloquent silence." Here's excerpts from exciting new poet ( http://issuu.com/didimenendez/docs/osissue2summer/6 ) Kelli Anne Noftle's poem "Afterlife" and the second, "Parasomnia" ( forthcoming in The Journal) :
I placed you in a shallow dish,
watch the water touch your body, touch my hand.
Preservation holds our minds in salt,
light, formaldehyde. I say crystallize and you're
tongue-tied. Heaven opens just wide enough to slip through.
They told me you were impossible to care for...
The reader pauses to consider the relationship between the "you", the "I" and the "They." Then comes the shift of focus. Each "pregnant pause" like a black hole draws us into the poem and its caesura's and enjambment's positive enslavement of time. What is not in a poem is kinesthetic time tethering the poem to some outside understanding of itself. This abstract absence created in a poem is also a kind of liminality, what Wikipedia defines as " a psychological, neurological, or metaphysical subjective, conscious state of being on the 'threshold' of or between two different existential planes, as defined in neurological psychology." Here's one on sleep-eating.
Experts say that loneliness is prone
to peanut butter. That we’ll walk in our sleep at least
once. The second hand on the kitchen clock tells
the dream it can go forward. That delicious ticking
in the mouth. When you remember
eating, it’s almost three days
after. You’re sitting in a coffee shop chewing
on a straw. It doesn’t taste like peanuts, but there’s something
oily in the plastic.
How does it go in the fairytale? Someone’s been licking
the linoleum. Someone sliced a bar of soap
and polished it off with your wine.
This elliptical dream tastes like sleepwalking to the edge of the cliff. Both Matthea Harvey and Southern California's Sarah Maclay use the prose poem's averted subject matter and self-voyeurism as a way into implied silence. Another truly marvelous poet from our neck of the woods is Martha Ronk who re-establishes and uses the instinctive language of omission (betwixt and between) and that "luminal space... in the area between two images... the transitional space."( from "Poetics of Failure")
My pals have heard me quote this little bit of Flaubert apcrypha before: "It is not the Houses that are built but the spaces between the Houses."