a moment: ‘On a Raised Beach’ could hardly be more anthropomorphic about its inhumanism or noisier about the silence that it preaches. The poet picks up a stone and it is ‘My own self ’ he holds, ‘The humanity no culture has reached’. But at this point we may be dealing less with a failing of MacDiarmid’s than of language itself, and its ability to turn off the author long enough to articulate the inhuman that lies beneath. The tongues are many in which silence seeks relief from the deafening noise it must make on a Shetland beach, and if MacDiarmid’s stones need to shout louder about their inhumanity than Finlay’s, so be it. Even someone as lacking in the pandemonium factor as the great Francis Ponge is not exempt. He will say no more about the pebble, he announces at the end of his prose poem ‘Le galet’; the disappearance from the pebble’s surface of all geological traces as it erodes into sand ‘me donne à réfléchir sur les défauts d’un style qui appuie trop sur les mots.’ I lean on the performative contradiction here, and grind Ponge’s pebble down slowly into friable sand. But away with this trifling opposition of human and inhuman. ‘The place of the pebble in modern aesthetics is that of Natural Man in the philosophy of J.-J. Rousseau’, wrote Finlay. What matter who speaks, poet or pebble. I feel the shifting sands under my words, MacDiarmid’s stony eternity running out with the low tide.
harbour view terrace: homage to calmac gable ERRgable
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