breathes life into it, it also begets destruction, since a name can never contain all it claims to encompass: “because there is in this world no one thing / to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds, / a word is elegy to what it signifies”, as Robert Hass put it in ‘Meditation at Lagunitas’. To be given life is to be made mortal, as Lucy Mercer points out in her review of Joyelle McSweeney’s Toxicon & Arachne: “to have a child is also always to bring a death into the world, to excavate a grave in the future.”
In Allen-Paisant’s poem ‘Naming’, discussed in Mukim’s review, the speaker starts off wishing for a precision of language that Rilke rejects – he wants to know “the names of birds” and “identify them by their song”, “because / a name is / reassurance” in a landscape where he does not feel at home. But he ends up in a similar place to Rilke, concluding that “perhaps the place within / will always escape the name”. Maybe all poetry arises from this negotiation between the nameless and the urge to name, from the tension between them that never slackens: the nameless will “always escape”, its getaway guaranteed in the very act of naming – just like the “named storm”, whose “absence [is] still more here for being named”.
We say release, and radiance, and roses, and echo upon everything that’s known, and yet, behind the world our names enclose is the nameless: our true archetype and home. – Rilke, tr. Stephen Mitchell