Sunday, May 18, 2008
Inspired by two books by Michio Kaku, Beyond Einstein and Hyperspace, both helpfully acquainting the laymen with current ideas in theoretical physics (such as the possibility of physical dimensions beyond the usual three), I began to think of poetry in a kind of scientific way; it occurred to me that the farther one departs from representation in a poem, the less stable metaphor (and the other standard figures and tropes) become. For example, "Richard is a lion" has the familiar metaphorical ring to the extent the phrase retains the values of the culture (ours) from which it comes. But when representation becomes idiosyncratic so that the link is loosened between writer and reader values, then metaphor (for example) perhaps morphs into symbol, whose significance must then be identified by reference to work itself, as a whole and self contained. All of the above is by way of saying how valuable the work of Michael Burkard is. The recently published Envelope of Night (Nightboat Books, 2008), a selection of work from 1966-1990, is a clear and excellent demonstration of a career arc toward representation, of a poetic that over time phases into known dimensions. We enter the current period with a strange commingling of relief and loss.