Matti Kangaskoski is a Finnish poet, scholar & performer. Matti has published two books of poetry and a novel, and is currently working on a poetry book that explores the limits of the mind. As an academic, Matti holds a bilateral PhD from the University of Helsinki and Justus Liebig University Giessen. He is preparing a monograph on the intermediation between new media and contemporary poetry. Matti is president of Nuoren Voiman Liitto, a Finnish literary-cultural organisation.
Photo by Markku Suoniemi
Think about it This Way
— Ten Thoughts on the Field of Poetry
1. Think about it this way:
What is the field of poetry in relation to other means of investigating the world? By poetry I mean all genres of literary art.
Science investigates the world and conceptualises it into predictive models, be it philosophical, physical or mathematical; love, friction or honey. —This is the project of the metaphorical enlightenment: the increase of light, the mapping of darkness with the light of reason.
In John Banville’s piece, fiction is brought into relation with the dream and the unconscious. The unconscious and the dream, for us, happen in the dark night of the mind, where the light of reason does not shine. When the mind is unlit by conscious thought and reason, it is dim, obscure, mysterious. It is the dark wood of the man’s dream, the unclear, murmuring voices.
Science is intertwined with light and brightness, and if it loses its keys, like in the famous streetlight anecdote, it cannot help but look for them in the light, regardless of where exactly the keys were lost. In the dark our enlightened project of seeing clearly is lost; but in the light there is no darkness to be explored.
The mystical is by definition beyond reason. It is the illogical, secret, the ungraspable. The mystic goes beyond the beaming light of reason, and dreams up the non-conceptual. Whatever is non-conceptual, however, cannot be expressed in words. —Things that cannot be put into words are what is mystical, says Wittgenstein. And what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence. Thus, in the field of the mystical science has no say; and in the field of science the mystical must remain silent.
Poetry is neither science nor the mystical but, like science and the mystical, it investigates the world outside and the world within, be it waking reality or dream. Poetry operates with the conceptual medium of words, but its reach is non-conceptual; that which, like a dream, escapes the clarity of our logic. It escapes paraphrasing, as the man in Banville’s piece painfully discovers. Poetry speaks words but performs silence.
Therefore, poetry is a medium between the clear light of day and the obscure darkness of night. It works between the dream and the real; the mystical and the scientific, the explicable and the inexplicable.
—But, importantly, being in between is wonderful. Neither light nor darkness are anything in themselves, either. No thing is anything by itself. This is not a problem.
Poetry illuminates darkness and obscures light. Paradoxically, through this work both light and darkness increase.
10. Thought about in this way
light is good and darkness is good. One is clear, the other is obscure. Great! You can see in both. Both light and darkness are boundless. The field of poetry is boundless.