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  • What You Might Equate To,

    Poems by Ben Kuznets-Speck

    1

  • Contents

    Title page 1

    Contents 2

    Poetry Through My Eyes a Critical Introduction 3

    Epigraph 8

    cataracts 9

    ultraviolet catastrophe 11

    tides 13

    across 14

    fields 15

    what you might equate to 16

    U-238 18

    found on the floor 21

    yellow is the color 22

    you are to me a poem 24

    About The Author 25

    Works Cited 26

    2

  • Poetry Through My Eyes

    The most I can say about poetry is that it provides a medium by which the intrinsic truths,

    spiritual and physical, of the world in which we dwell are allowed, forced even, to mingle and

    hybridize, creating those not to be found in the deepest recesses of space or the mind alone. It is

    this transcendent dialogue between the self and the gestalt collection of all selves that allows us

    to see deeper and clearer into what we might call reality than without the poem.

    Indeed, it is the experience and discovery uncovered in the poem which ties it most

    intimately to what we might consider, at first glance, to be its polar opposite science. Hugh

    MacDiarmid explores this idea in Poetry and Science, and, truth be told, it is the abstract nature

    of both poetry and science which scares those in one field away from the other. Of course, math

    is not about symbols on a blackboard or piece of paper, which is the impression most people are

    hard put to avoid from the time they enter infant school onward, (MacDiarmid 122) just as

    poetry is not just about landscapes and metaphor; rather, the two are about coming closer to the

    truth(s) of the world around us in the only really rigorous (albeit sometimes a bit abstract) way

    we know how the only real difference between mathematicians and poets is that one employs

    symbols and the other words to describe their reality. As such, it is just another sorry instance of

    the failure of most scientists and philosophers to avail themselves of the aid they could have

    derived from a really thorough and up-to-date knowledge of poetry, (MacDiarmid 133) and visa

    versa. Those of us who are lucky enough to have knowledge of poetry and science know that

    these feed each other, and are, at most, different sides of the same coin: one that deals in

    conditions (we can hardly say that the human condition is not a physical one, nor that the

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  • physical conditions of nature arent closely tied to human construct). In summary, a flower is a

    flower, but it derives its beauty not simply from being such, but from what we as humans give to

    it, its physical and poetic composition. We might say that this flower finds beauty in its

    complexion, form, and the way it sways in the breeze, or we might say that its the unique way

    electromagnetic waves reflect off the petals, the topology of the petals themselves, and the

    manner in which they interact individually and as a whole with all the forces of nature; these two

    qualifications are one in the same.

    This deeply rooted connection between science and poetry is not all that hard to believe

    if we allow ourselves the simple sentiment of wishing to come out of a situation with more than

    what we entered with, which is by all accounts the essence of discovery. Thus is the goal when

    studying any text: to discover through experience, whether it be thinking about why we are

    bound to this earth as Newton did, or standing beside Ginsberg in the shadow of dungarees and

    the lava and ash of poetry scattered in fireplace Chicago. We can say then that no research or

    writing is groundbreaking since it is inevitably woven from the research and writing of others, or

    as Machado put it we may perhaps see the new reasons arise from the old, thanks to the

    immanent dialectic of all thinking" (Machado 163). Discovery then is not singular, rather poetry

    and science itself abounds in instances of unrelated research arriving independently and from

    different angles of approach at identical discoveries (MacDiarmid 133). It is this eureka

    moment we all strive for when the pieces fit together so perfectly they form what I would

    equate to a staircase: upon which one can climb and take in a greater truth than would have been

    possible from the ground. This is the stuff of junkies. This is discovery. I discover every day.

    4

  • Moreover, I would dare to say that poetry as an experience is as continuous and

    unpredictable a discovery as life itself. Picking up a good poem, even if Ive read it many times

    before is like stepping into a scene, one that is at once vivid and opaque, oscillating back and

    forth through time, yet seeming to encapsulate a single moment in a manner only the fondest of

    memories can emulate. In this way, as Pasternak remarked, "life hasn't just begun. Art never had

    a beginning. Always, until the moment of its stopping, it was constantly there" (Pasternak 24).

    Life and poetry alike are nothing without experience, which forms a continuity of sorts. Before

    experience, as far as we are concerned, there was nothing; in the midst of experience there is

    only that, and one could say that experience to come is simply the reflection of that before it, but

    abstracted and distorted so that it must be experienced again. Lorca describes the mystic and

    fleeting experience the reader brings to the poem, and visa versa, as the duende.

    The duende, then, is a power and not a construct, is a struggle and not a concept.

    I have heard an old guitarist, a true virtuoso, remark, The duende is not in the

    throat, the duende comes up from inside, up from the very soles of the feet. That

    is to say, it is not a question of aptitude, but of a true and viable styleof blood,

    in other words; of what is oldest in culture: of creation made act. (Lorca 29)

    So duende cannot be without some sort of human interference; this 'struggle', the desperate

    grasping into night is what makes us human and is nothing without humanity. Whats more, the

    Duende never repeats himself, any more than the forms of the sea repeat themselves in a

    storm, (Lorca 37) and so it would appear that the duende and the poem therein go through a

    constant evolution of sorts. Duncan points out that in poetry as in Darwinian evolution, by

    chance significance emerges: i.e out of multiple "formless" possibilities only one thing actually

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  • happens, (Duncan 261) suggesting that the experience of poetry is in fact a type of complex

    irreducibility. This is to say that the poem is not what mathematicians would call closed form;

    you cannot simply reconcile the entity as a whole to get to a specific outcome, rather you must

    follow along beside it every step of the way, the place you choose to begin leading you to a

    different destination than all others in the span of all possible outcomes. Perhaps this is why a

    poem always has elements of accident about it, (Heaney 274) because we must engage it

    constantly. After all, [form] is not only in order to participate in the universe but also to

    participate in self (Duncan 262). This participation functions as a type of searching. We should

    always be searching for something, and furthermore, should be satisfied with whatever happens,

    not because it was what we hoped for, but because it happened at all, and because it is the only

    thing that could ever happen.

    Yet, we are only human and so are doomed to a constant struggle for some greater

    knowing and control. Of course such ventures are futile, if for no other reason than because we

    are fundamentally separated from the natural world which we wish to reconcile because of our

    humanity, which is in simplest terms to point out the disconnect between what we might call free

    will and the natural order of things. So too, then, is the construct of language disconnected from

    describing things as they are rather than what we should, at some level, want them to be. On the

    outset, this should seem quite frightening, for all ventures dealing in the absolute are certainly

    doomed, but the irrational nature of being human in the first place, I believe, provides a struggle

    to which we can hold on to. It is this constant pushing against a force that will inevitable win and

    that we will never truly understand that embodies what poetry is to me, and, as far as Im

    concerned, is demonstrated no where more vividly than in Allen Ginsbergs Howl. I say this

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  • because, in this piece, Ginsberg deals in perhaps the only void larger than that between human

    and nature, human and human; for what is more of a struggle than pleading with ones fellow

    people for understanding or even simply to have ones ideas recognized. Yes, I would say there

    comes a time in all of our lives when our minds are lost, or close to it, when