water water everywhere

I worked with A.R. Ammons’ “Hymn” (p. 112), whose internal contradictions (having to go infinitely beyond the earth to reach God v. recognizing the distance as an essential part of that relationship) make perfect sense even as they contradict each other. Part of what bound these irreconcilable differences so tightly together was the repetition of the phrase “if I find you I will have to”/ “if I find you I must.” What works about this complication is that the speaker comprehends his/her helplessness with this two contradicting arguments – while the speaker knows s/he will have to reach the highest heights, “up farther than the loss of sight,” s/he recognizes that s/he would be lucky to have God revealed in something so tiny as a private physical sensation or feeling (“praying for a never cell”). Furthermore, God is everywhere (according to the speaker), “You are everywhere partial and entire/ You are on the inside of everything and on the outside” – complicating this yearning to discover or find or reach God – if He is everywhere, there isn’t really any reason to go “on up through the spheres of diminishing air” – but why then does the speaker feel the longing to go looking if God is in fact everywhere at once?

When stealing ideas, I made my subject water (which is everything – in the sky, in the ground, in our own bodies) and my speaker dying of thirst. In this way, I was able to mimic the “water everything” idea and yet maintain that searching aspect (just because its humid outside doesn’t mean you can’t be thirsty). I suppose this element appealed to me because it philosophically complicates a quest (making one pause to ask questions like ‘Why do we get thirsty if our bodies are 61% water?’ or ‘Why do we feel a pull towards God if He’s supposedly everywhere?’). I think the dialectical structure forces us to confront complex arguments and makes us take the time to plot out each side of an argument and to be so thorough that we are convinced that both are true at once, even if they’re irreconcilable. I feel this structure is most applicable to its certain subjects – those which do mesmerize us because they frustrate us, and so it can be the mode by which to explore the most probing and irritating questions of life, the universe, and everything.

2 Responses to “water water everywhere”

  1. superduder Says:

    I too have written poems about water but not using the dialectical structure. I think that one thing that interests me about your use of this structure when writing about water is the questioning aspect. While in A.R. Ammons’ “Hymn” (p. 112) he questions as you put it “Why do we feel a pull towards God if He’s supposedly everywhere?” in your poem you address certain questions like why we need water if our bodies are 61% water. I think they both work on the same level. While a biologist can simply tell a person why they still crave water although there is so much already in their body one does not need to take it as fact. Also, in relation to A.R. Ammons’ poem, a psychologist could tell a person why they feel a pull towards God, one might say for the necessity of a father figure, but the questions having possible answers is not the point. The interesting aspect about the dialectical structure is that we question these things rather than the answers.

    ~Donny

  2. “I feel this structure is most applicable to its certain subjects – those which do mesmerize us because they frustrate us, and so it can be the mode by which to explore the most probing and irritating questions of life, the universe, and everything.”

    I think what has made my dialectical argument poems unsuccessful is that I am not mesmerized by what I’m trying to write about. When I literally plan these poems, as it seems I’ve been doing, I stop looking at the subject with wonder. This failure of mine is perhaps my fault alone, as I am the the one who plans her arguments, removing the exciting, suspenseful wonder. The dialectical argument structure should work–on paper it sounds epic, but I guess I just have difficulty translating theory into action.

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