2004-02-10

Heroditus: Take Michael Riffaterre's book Semiotics of Poetry, where he argues (as described by the American poet-bridge builder Henry Gould) that the poetic involves a dialectic between mimesis or representation, on the one hand (which creates what Riffaterre calls meaning), and significance, on the other. The architecture game of poetry, then, would seem to involve deciphering a significance that is always deferred by the parabolic indirections of transforming meaningful observation into architectonic structure. Does this suggest that a poem --the kind that is written on a two-dimensional page-- is necessarily and merely a kind of deceptive *faciatta* through whose apertures an interior content is fleetingly and deceptively glimpsed against what is, in the most material sense, a swarming particle space? * Socrates: A very challenging question Heroditus; one which I may be unable to answer. Heroditus: Socrates! We know better. You don’t give up so easily. Socrates: Very well, then. We’ll leave to the side for the moment that I suspect this dialectic of which you speak may undermine my theory of the Forms, and begin with the relatively simple question, are you a poet? Heroditus: As mythologizer of histories, Socrates, yes, yes, I am. Socrates: And are you aware of that which you write? Heroditus: Socrates, we’ve all heard that one before. You can’t sneak out of this one by claiming that poets are unaware of the meaning and significance of what they write. Socrates: Indeed I cannot, and I would not consider dishonoring my good friend in such a way. To answer your question, let’s consider the infamous wax tablet that Ovid used to woo his dear Corrina. Heroditus: ah, “To Venus, from Ovid, for services rendered, one cheap wooden writing-tablet – now beyond price”. We are extremely prescient, Socrates. Socrates: Now, according to your little formulation, the meaning or mimesis stems from the interactions of this couple, does it not? Heroditus: It is beyond my remit to disagree. Still, if we’re talking about the words on the page, yes, there is some relationship. Socrates: Good. And the significance, so-called Heroditus: can be found in the form, an inscription, and locale, Venus’s shrine Socrates: You are much too quick for me. Thus, when the wax fades… Heroditus: The material object, the writing-tablet, returns back to itself and occupies a simple space as an object of devotion. Socrates: I have this effect on people.. * Answer yes or no via a parable in the style of Plato.

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