Academic journal article Chicago Review

Tomaz Salamun

Academic journal article Chicago Review

Tomaz Salamun

Article excerpt

Tomaz Salamun People don't complain of early Christian mystics, or authors of other cultures myths, that their stories, which seem fantastical, are therefore useless because they don't conform to reality.

It is understood that their exaggerations conform to another, metaphysical truth.

This is exactly Salamun's strategy. If his poems seem obtuse or cut adrift from our planet's surface, this is because they are utterances of a different kind from what we might expect of contemporary poetry. His concerns are not simply with the elements of language, or with image, or with different voices; he is concerned with all of these in order to express something larger than each of these. I'm reading "The White Angel" now, thinking of this.

She threw pearls in my eyes and they

wounded me

Salamun's poems are fantastical because he invokes that part of our reality or of our collective imagination that presumes (and whose meaning relies on) the Imagination. The poems draw from a reserve of structural, imagistic, and linguistic forms that have existed in our culture forever, in the forms of folklore, religious imagery, urban myths, and jokes.

He dashed upon me and ground me

so I became a puddle.

Jackdaws drank the puddle.

Now the question is with the idea of the collective imagination. Is this something we talk about though it doesn't exist, or does it actually exist in some physical way?

And if it doesn't exist physically, can't we still agree it exists simply because we can all draw from it and refer to it, and understand what others mean when they refer to it? It exists like a unicorn exists. Or perhaps it is one of the many things that we can only know through its effect: we can't see courage, but we can see that someone's actions must be inspired by it; we can't see or know what love is, but we can see that someone is treating us as if our definition of love is controlling them. Only to the cripplingly literal does it matter if courage or love really exist. …

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