Monday, November 22, 2010

On Bluets:


I picked up Maggie Nelson’s Bluets. As in, I picked it up in a bookstore, flipped through a few pages, became snagged. Then, I walked to the café end of the bookstore, ordered coffee, found a table, read a few more pages, and then, after reading this passage:


As I collected blues for this project—in folders, in boxes, in notebooks, in memory—I imagined creating a blue tome, an encyclopedic compendium of blue observations, thoughts, and facts. But as I lay out my colletion now, what strikes me most is its anemia—an anemia that seems to stand in direct proportion to my zeal. I thought I had collected enough blue to build a mountain, albeit one of detritus. But it seems to me now as if I have stumbled upon a pile of thin blue gels scattered on the stage long after th show has come and gone; the set, striked

I walked promptly to the cash register and bought the book. On the train, I finished the slim volume and then began again. It’s a book of lyric essays that are meditations on blue, blue in all its historical, religious and cultural radiations, and the author’s own struggle with depression and loss. Its agility to move between her own personal travails and her scholarship reminds me of Anne Carson’s Glass Essay, the piece where Carson movingly writes about Charlotte Bronte’s life and her own heartbreak. Bluets is a lyric study on perceptions of color, beauty, eros and love. But also, the book is about the act of searching; her process of researching blue becomes an act of passion itself, from the blue curios she examines, to ransacking her own memories of her ex-lover, to reading about saints who gouge out their blue eyes, to her small surprised encounters with blue. There’s a kind of collector’s quality to Nelson’s writing in the way she amasses blue encounters, which leads me to Benjamin’s quote about the collector:


“Among children, collecting is only one process of renewal; other processes are the painting of objects, the cutting out of figures, the application fo decals…the renew the old world—that is the collector’s deepest desire when he is driven to acquire new things.”

And this--


“Thus there is in the life of a collector a dialectical tensions between the poles of disorder and order. Naturally, his existence is tied to many other things as well: to a very mysterious relationship to ownership, something about which we shall have more to say later; also, to a relationship to objects which does not emphasize their functional value—but studies as loves them as the scene, the stage, of their fate.”

which aligns with Nelson’s approach towards the color blue, a color that she seems to study as scene, stage, fate. Lyric poems that focus in on the personal lived experience can often feel myopically self-absorbed but Nelson’s Bluets is a gift that must be shared.

1 Comments:

At 9:42 AM , Blogger Ken said...

I got this in CA a few months ago and have been enjoying it too!
--Ken Chen

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home