from The Fatalist
People talk about the ineluctable character of the “lyric moment”
but it seems to me that it is an astonishingly sturdy and detailed moment
passing through the world as well as through dreams.
The party afterward was held among the exhibits
and I did finally figure out what an analyst does
with “embeddeds,” i.e., “all the equipment that we don’t call computers
but that use microchips,” e.g., streetlights. There might be a dramatic
scene rambling there
of things observed and thoughts thought over the past few weeks
as the fog burns off over the hills
rising from the kitchen in Beethoven’s Great Fugue emotionally
from fragile sentimentality to robust ecstasy that bears all the arbitrary
conflict between reality and unreality of any number (since
numbers aren’t particularly “real” nor “unreal” after all)
but seem to have no relation to me
right on the beach built according to some architect’s fantasy. There was
no front door
and M overcame her shock at the feeling of sand on her hands.
F suddenly drove into the surf wearing a heavy woolen jacket when this
and I fell on the sand hauled to shore, still singing. Taken out of context, it
that I ate an entire salmon at one sitting
from my hotel room. It does make a difference. But the problems are more
lurking than actual, at this point, preoccupying, sufficiently
Let’s go to
-- Lyn Hejinian
The poem’s title, plus the word “ineluctable” – which stands out in line one – invite meditation on fate and fatalism. The Anglo-Saxon word for “fate” is “wyrd." Unlike “destiny,” “wyrd” doesn’t imply a fate marked out for a person or thing by some greater force. It simply means “that which happens.” And it is fate in this sense that the poem enacts.
The poem contains what the world contains – thoughts, feelings, perceptions, sense experience, the things of the world which are outer and other including writing (the “lyric moment”), other people, and the self, which is both internal and a public creation completed by the other (“a duo without paragraph breaks”).
Inner and outer worlds mix in the poem. The “world” and “dreams,” “reality” and “unreality,” “things observed and thoughts thought” switch places, each as “sturdy and detailed” as the other. As the poem unfolds, general reflection increasingly gives way to a mélange of specifics – a party, exhibits, an analyst, “all the equipment we don’t call computers,” streetlights, fog, Beethoven music, a kitchen, the beach, a front door, other people (“M” and “F”), sand, eating a salmon – the random miscellany of experience. This “does make a difference” – but the problems of meaning – of why things happen as they happen – “are more lurking than actual.” They may preoccupy us; but they are always “sufficiently shifting” so that caught in the succession of moments we move on.
The fatalist accepts all and keeps moving. There is no final stopping place in the poem, as in life. The movement of the poem is for me one of its most original and compelling features; and it is that movement which acts out the poem’s meanings. Like life, the unfolding of the poem moment by moment and line by line can only be experienced. It cannot be predicted ahead of time, or explained afterward. It just is.
The poem isn’t spoken in a void, but rather is addressed to an unknown other – in fact, as it turns out, the reader. At the end the reader joins with the speaker in that constant motion which characterizes the poem’s unfolding. The movement of the poem is acted out by unpredictable shifts and jumps within lines and from line to line, which we participate in as we read. This movement, the movement of both life and the poem, is inescapable (“ineluctable”) and also, in the end, inexplicable: “Let’s go to
-- Patricia Carlin