We have no trouble thinking of the difference between thought and feeling, and Jung assures us they are both "judging functions" since both weigh in on our irrational sensations and intuitions. Both thought and feeling shape an existence in which the senses and intuitions, are, indeed, "deranged." Of course Rimbaud advocated a "derangement of the senses" By his time, thought and feeling had become tired, and official. I sometimes times think everything we call modernist, or post-modernist, or "experimental" is merely a shift in priorities between these four functions. Whereas poetry before Rimbaud used the sensations and intuitions to aid and abet agreed upon feeling and thinking states, modernism reversed the trend so that sensation (as with the symbolists), or intuition (as with the Dadaists and French surrealists) made introverted sensation and extroverted intuition the prime functions, with thought and feeling serving cameo roles. This got rid of the tired and agreed upon tropes of thought and feeling (sentiments), but it had one unfortunate effect:: Direct utterance of emotion, not as a feeling state (emotion is not feeling), or as mere sensation, but as some mysterious hybrid of judging and non-judging functions: the barbaric yawp, and not just the barbaric yawp as Whitman expressed it (which, misunderstood, can be confused with a raw rather than a cooked utterance) but the aria (Whitman loved opera) in which the singer and the song merge, an emotional state which is neither feeling nor sensation, but that odd and brackish syntax between them where the body of a life is fully spoken. It can be loathsome to those who have an inherent disdain for anything direct and seemingly artless, yet on the tenth artful poem, we might wish to flee our own "inventiveness" and hear something that belts forth without apology. This is the poetry of Maria Mazziotti Gillan. Its directness may baffle. If one is not careful, and is expecting a nuanced equivocation of "feeling" then one misreads her. She is a voice that has learned to inhabit, and this is how to enjoy her work. It is a voice that has no time to draw attention to decorative effects. It is a voice of presence rather than performance, the voice of an opera singer who has sung long enough to know that six octave ranges will not do you much good if you need just one note and can't be direct enough to nail it.. I have known Maria for 25 years. I have met no one as single minded, or as generous to other poets. In this poem, she achieves the effect of true lamentation. That is no mean accomplishment.
What a Liar I Am
I have been lying for a long time now, the sicker you get the more I lie to myself most of all. I cannot say how angry
I am that this illness is another person in our house, so lies are the only way to get through each day. How hard it is
to admit that I am often impatient and raging and that anger is a pit I can never swallow, that love, even mine for you who have been with me for forty years, cannot dissolve the hank of loneliness that has become lodged
in my throat, the irritating squeaking of your electric wheelchair, the way I want to run away from the putrid smell the medicines make rising from your skin, the way
I lie and lie so you won’t know how heavy this illness
feels—how long it has been going on, sixteen years now—and the way your feet dragging along the carpet when you can still walk is like a fingernail on a blackboard. This is all too much for you, you say and I reassure you, no, not for
you, nothing is too much for you. I am a burden you say, and no, no I say. Not a burden. The face I see in my mirror is not one I want to see, impatient, frazzled, selfish. Oh love, I could not have imagined it would come to this,
a moment when I can only live by lying to myself and you, you with your pitiful, begging eyes, you with your reedy voice calling me for help, you a clanging bell that calls me, you whom I love, but cannot carry.