Okt 28, 2012

A "Danse Russe" Thread

Here's the poem discussed below.

DE— What do we get from this grotesque dance? Who is the persona (or Williams himself dancing to? He (or in his imagination) is dancing in front of the mirror, the shades drawn. The Danse Russe is locked away from view, yes, yet he publishes the scene (or the imagination of the scene) into a poem where the public sees the silken mists and, to a certain extent, his flanks and arms. Also, he is asking an open question about the very scene which he closed off from anyone else. It seems to me that by writing this poem, he dutifully and conscientiously performs a performative contradiction. Does this provide a meaningful angle for reading this poem?

DE— That's a koan, I think. No one was around to hear the tree fall, but we're around to hear someone talking about the tree falling (and no one hearing), and so in a way, it does make a sound. In this poem, he becomes an exhibitionist (and we voyeurs) but several times removed from the act of exhibition.

AN— several?

DE— Many times removed, yes. First, as pointed out by the vid discussion, it probably did not happen. Just a hypothetical situation in the mind of the persona (that it's a persona is also an additional remove). Even if it did happen, we're shut off from it like his own sleeping family. Even if he published the poem, it's only so he can tell us that we're thus removed from this. He's fully aware of the strength of his image and how far he can tease before he gives out his open question (who-shall-say...).

AN— that's right. by default, one dances "with" somebody, though people also dance to audiences and for the sake of queens, etc. what if the reading that the Danse Russe is a metaphor for poetry (that this poet, like most poets, writes when nobody's looking, an act of undressing and maybe joy, but distanced from partners and audience, therefore not entirely joyful?) led to the phrasing of this question as "dancing to," like "writing to" . . ?

DE— Thank you. Your word "witness" reminds me of another genius who danced grotesquely. King David danced naked in the streets. His wife called on God to witness the debasement before the Ark. A string of misfortunes would befall the House of David after this. I have to revisit these verses to make sure I summarized them correctly.

AN— you think that intertext was intended by the author?

DE— I believe so, yes.

AN— there should be some thread or other devoted to that intertext alone. anyway, thanks for sharing it

DE— Stravinsky's sprawling score! "Spring" sounds about right (and there's the WCW fixation on that particular season). Your reading accounts for why the image is so indelible now. It plays along quite well, in my view, of the professor's definition of the word "genius" as originator, creator. It plays somehow with the Eden parting scene too, I guess, Adam stripping off the clothes with which he was covered by God.

DE— This discussion of the actual danse russe and its effects make for a richer reading.

AN— scandal is a nice word to contemplate in the suburbs. it's why those curtains are down! it has to be part of what this 'genius' is dancing against

GE— When I first read the title I thought it was a very clever play on words and how both meanings of the tittle can fit the poem so well. I think of how in a suburbia you are supposed to be living a tranquil normal life but all in all it's just a facade.

AN— what's a chastushka, btw? i mean, as a poem. see, you're saying that william's poem that incorporates a dance actually used a dance that incorporates a poem!

GE— What will make it a bit more interesting is that some of the Danse Russe samples also has poetry in them as well. So it's really a pas de deux between poetry and danse at this point.

DE— Agree! Esp. with your #2. With being in denial though, it becomes more complicated because he seems ultra-aware of being in denial. Awareness somehow doubles the negation. Maybe that's another function of the mirror in the scene.

DE— Or, his inner child?

DE— This seems one of the central questions of the poem, but only if he does see writing-to-be-heard as a contradiction to writing-to-unload. Other poets (confessional poets usually) see them as quite compatible. Misery loves an audience. I guess WCW feels these two modes grating against each other.

GE— That's sad. That part where he answers his own question.