Sunday, March 09, 2008
Barthes writes: the alphabet is euphoric: no more anguish of schema, no more rhetoric of development, no more twisted logic, no more dissertations!
In poetry, the alphabet often acts as a subterranean ordering principle. The alphabet creates order precisely in that place in the verse where the other schema of versification (those which usually come into play at the beginnings or ends of lines): rhythm, rhyme, assonance, alliteration, image and meaning, may not reach; when the sequence of key words within a line threatens to become arbitrary.
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
In this line from Prufrock, decisions comes before revisions, because d comes before r, not for any more ostensible reason based on rhyme or similarity of rhythm or internal logic of meaning.
Wild men, who caught and sang the sun in flight (from Dylan Thomas’s villanelle)
caught comes first because c comes before s.
This ‘temptation’ of the alphabet is a perfect mnemonic tool, euphoric because it releases the memory from the schema of versification, replacing them with the utter simplicity of letters in a sequence.