A fascinating essay, “Forms of Disjunction,” in The Resistance to Poetry, by James Logenbach, a book recommended by Kevin at The Slant Truth. The gist of the essay (or at least my reading of it) is that disjunction — an unexpected leap of association, image, argument, tone — is crucial, even essential, to poetry. As readers, we want to be astonished, bewitched, confused for a moment, and to have to work a little to fill in what’s missing, to make our own connections. This is one of the great pleasures of poetry. The problem is when a poem is all disjunction. You know the kind of poem I am talking about. Where you can’t make heads or tails of anything in it. Instead of a sense of surprise or wonder or mystery, all you feel reading it is weariness, boredom. Logenbach quotes Auden on this:
“The danger, as Auden admitted more openly in a letter to Frank O’Hara, was that of ‘confusing authentic non-logical relations which arouse wonder with accidental ones which arouse mere surprise and in the end fatigue.’ . . . There is always a risk involved in disjunction; that’s part of its wonder. And we need to feel, in our pleasure, the threat of the accident impinging slightly on the authentic.” pg 36.
He goes on to differentiate between “dry disjunction” and “wet disjunction,” the former being more sensory, dream-like, image-based, and spoken; and the latter being more abstract, philosophical, idea-based, and thought.
I think of the Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense. Sometimes it’s exactly what a poem needs: to stop making so much sense, to have a dash of disjunction added to it: a little wet, a little dry. But a poem that is all disjunction is like fishing without a bicycle.