Peter J. Grieco

On fait de son mieux

Two versions of the same plot need have no two sentences in common.

From Structuralist Poetics, Jonathan Culler (1975)

Reading a novel, negotiating
those stairways & tenement halls, those by-
ways of Petersburg, & all that people
them from bustling curbside
to curbside –
has much in common
with the recalling of a dream.

We do our best, without knowing it,
to submit discordant elements
to a kind of Secondary Revision
yielding something more coherent.
A reader will “reorganize through
the synthesizing operations of reading”
a novel’s “narrative presentation,”
smoothing over its gaps,
quietly ingesting its inferences
so that every kidnapping
has the flavor of dΓ©jΓ  lu.

When a character purchases a book,
we may be sure of one
of two possibilities: she will learn
something important later on, or we,
or the act will become symbolic – of the
the hermeneutic act of reading itself,
of the ultimate fictionality of the world,
or, more simply, of the foibles
of bourgeois tastes (which, of course,
we share with our character). We
approach the text assuming everything
noted is likely to be truly notable.

The Happy Side of Babel

A cow is like the third law of thermodynamics in that neither is a waste-paper basket.

From Structuralist Poetics, Jonathan Culler (1975)

Pray, undo this button & drop me off
on the happy side of Babel. The center
will fill itself, eventually. So do not
try to rebuild the ship in mid-ocean.
When you think of a poem, think not
of representation or communication
but of a series of forms which either
confirm or resist the production
of sense. Ride out those moments
of indeterminacy in the midst
of calmer seas. We may save Balzac
as a critic of capitalism. We may
also want to hoist him back on deck
simply to enjoy his strangeness.
As we “savor the drama of a sentence,”
we may somehow gain a complex
apprehension that helps to displace
the meaning from something in the words
to something in the air, as a function
as much of what is done as what is said.

About the Author

Peter J. Grieco is former professor of English and retired school bus driver. His poems are widely published in small magazines online and in print. His blog At the Musarium and Other Writings archives much of this work. His chapbook collection of ekphrastic verse, The Bind Man’s Meal, is available from Finishing Line Press.