Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Robert Pinsky and The Refinery "palace on the water"

I discovered poet Robert Pinsky a couple of weeks ago, posted his poem December Blues
on 3 December. Wikipedia tells me that
Robert Pinsky (born October 20, 1940) is an American poet, essayist, literary critic, and translator. From 1997 to 2000, he served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Pinsky is the author of nineteen books, most of which are collections of his poetry. His published work also includes critically acclaimed translations, including The Inferno of Dante Alighieri....

Here's another of his poems - this one fascinated me - I needed to read it over and over, loving the feel of it, the words, trying to grasp overall meaning - which, really is explained in those initial lines, in quotation marks.

by Robert Pinsky

". . . our language, forged in the dark by centuries of violent
pressure, underground, out of the stuff of dead life."

Thirsty and languorous after their long black sleep
The old gods crooned and shuffled and shook their heads.
Dry, dry. By railroad they set out
Across the desert of stars to drink the world
Our mouths had soaked
In the strange sentences we made
While they were asleep: a pollen-tinted
Slurry of passion and lapsed
Intention, whose imagined
Taste made the savage deities hiss and snort.

In the lightless carriages, a smell of snake
And coarse fur, glands of lymphless breath
And ichor, the avid stenches of
Immortal bodies.

Their long train clicked and sighed
Through the gulfs of night between the planets
And came down through the evening fog
Of redwood canyons. From the train
At sunset, fiery warehouse windows
Along a wharf. Then dusk, a gash of neon:
Bar. Black pinewoods, a junction crossing, glimpses
Of sluggish surf among the rocks, a moan
Of dreamy forgotten divinity calling and fading
Against the windows of a town. Inside
The train, a flash
Of dragonfly wings, an antlered brow.

Black night again, and then
After the bridge, a palace on the water:

The great Refinery--impossible city of lights,
A million bulbs tracing its turreted
Boulevards and mazes. The castle of a person
Pronounced alive, the Corporation: a fictional
Lord real in law.

Barbicans and torches
Along the siding where the engine slows
At the central tanks, a ward
Of steel palisades, valved and chandeliered.

The muttering gods
Greedily penetrate those bright pavilions--
Libation of Benzene, Naphthalene, Asphalt,
Gasoline, Tar: syllables
Fractioned and cracked from unarticulated

Crude, the smeared keep of life that fed
On itself in pitchy darkness when the gods
Were new--inedible, volatile
And sublimated afresh to sting
Our tongues who use it, refined from oil of stone.

The gods batten on the vats, and drink up
Lovecries and memorized Chaucer, lines from movies
And songs hoarded in mortmain: exiles' charms,
The basal or desperate distillates of breath
Steeped, brewed and spent
As though we were their aphids, or their bees,
That monstered up sweetness for them while they dozed.

It's about the metaphorical refining of language isn't it?

A bit of reverse ekphrasis ? (Click on it to see full image). We came across this when out and about one day, probably somewhere in Texas.

Robert Pinsky is featured in several brief YouTube videos, I especially enjoyed these two: one is about words and language, the other about himself and his place of birth.


mike said...

"Who else could have written 'The Refinery,' in which ancient animal gods from the collective unconscious wake up and take a train to the factory of language (imagined as a kind of petroleum, pressed out of human history while they were sleeping)?" Katha Pollitt

His astrology as a writer [ ] has Libra Sun, Gemini Moon, Mercury in Scorpio opposed Uranus, and Venus in Virgo trine a conjunct Jupiter-Saturn in Taurus. Obviously good placements for a man-with-pen.

I like his voice and facial expressions...his poetry is probably best heard from his own mouth. He reminds me of some actor from TV or Hollywood...LOL.

What is the structure in your reverse ekphrasis photo? Is it a sculpture or a real building, maybe a tavern? And writing of ekphrasis, it would be interesting to see a painting-rendering of Pinsky's "The Refinery".

Twilight said...

mike ~ K. Pollitt has it in a nutshell! :-)

Thanks for the link to his chart - yes, man-with-pen and rather charming approach (via video).

I like the videos too, his voice and expressions, and know what you mean about his reminding you of some other well-known face. I see it as not from recent films or TV but a little farther back, maybe 1950s to 70s. Can't put a name to it yet though.

The structure in the photograph (taken by anyjazz) is something we happened upon by chance. He thinks it was somewhere in Oklahoma just outsidesome town. I now, having thought more on it, suspect it was in some other state, because I recall saying "Why would they put this here, there's no oil production nearby?" - Quite surprising, it was. It's BIG - spread almost too wide for the camera go get it all in, and was on a slightly raised ridge. I wonder if it was a local metal sculptor's work. I'm sure I'd have looked for information on the plaques, but have no further memory. I kept this photo handy in a file as I knew I'd use it one day. :-)

A painting of the poem, done by someone with insight, yes! I'd like to see that!

Twilight said...

mike ~ After digging around and annoying anyjazz, asking him to find me the date and place of the photo of The Refinery sculpture, we find it is in a tiny town called Cyril in Oklahoma, and we found it on day last year when we drove out to the Wild Life Refuge beyond Lawton, and took a different road home.
The town was the site of an oil refinery from the early 1920s until it was closed in 1984. During that time, the refinery was operated by Anderson-Prichard Refining and later Oklahoma Refining. It was the major economic driver for the town, employing 160 people at the time of closure. An unsuccessful attempt was made in the early 1990s to restart part of the refinery. As of 2010, the refinery had been demolished and the site was a Superfund environmental cleanup site.

Here's the Wiki entry,_Oklahoma

mike (again) said...

I'm impressed with anyjazz' record keeping! Thanks for pestering him...LOL. I did find another photo:

Next time you go through Cyril, check-out "Sia The Camanche Nation Ethno-Ornithological Initiative", a Camanche eagle hatchery:

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Will do! :-)