the brutalities of raw contact

have just read Mallarme’s A Tomb for Anatole, translated by Paul Auster, a collection of notes / fragments that he wrote when his 8 year old son died. They sketch out plans for a longer, four part poem, and are intensely personal (as far as Mallarme goes) and incredibly sad. They have much the same “modern feel” as Holderlin’s fragments that we read at the beginning of class. Here is an example:


I. what!… here the sob
the indignant protest
hurled out to infinity
II. to take on oneself
all his suffering
middle —
and III. then, one can, eyes
lifted to the sky —
draw the final line, the calm
of the heavy tomb —

It is an interesting effect to imagine what the poem would have been like – and that is the power of these small fragments, they create that “invisible architecture” that Mallarme describes that is absent in his finished poems, but here we have only that barely sustainable architecture. Not the indeterminate form/fragment itself, but the projection of completion never attained – a post-modern imagining. Imagining perhaps how sad i will be when they finally complete Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia.

There are other notes that focus on poetics:

whatever poem
based on facts
always– should
take only
general facts —
it happens here
that taken to-
gether harmonize

Other try to capture the idea of the feeling to be captured:

family perfect
father son
mother daughter

broken —
three, a void
among us,


to pray to the dead
(not for them)

knees, child
knees — need
to have the child here
— his absence — knees
fall — and

for one of the true dead
only a child!


true mourning in
the apartment
–not cemetery —



to find only
absence —
— in presence
of little clothes
— etc —


moment when we must
break with the
living memory,
to bury it
— put it in the coffin,
hide it — with
the brutalities of
putting it into the coffin
raw contact, etc.


Being in “raw contact” with these fragments is terribly intense, there is less of a screen from which to view the “little clothes”, the “furniture” or the “knees” – they allow us to feel Mallarme’s drama before he transforms them completely into poetry, which has more to do with absence than raw contact.


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