Welcome to On Beauty, a series of interviews with poets about their relationships to beauty. For an introduction to the project, click here.
This month Oana Avasilichioaei responds in essay form to the three questions I’ve been asking of each poet. These questions appear at the end of her essay, and my two follow-up questions are also integrated into the body of the essay. References are included as endnotes.
Avasilichioaei is a flexible writer and thinker, whose mapping of her bodily responses to beauty is, perhaps strangely, not the norm in most discussions of beauty these days, which makes her piece especially valuable.
A Bounty or Booty of Beauty
(in dialogue with the many)1
For Beauty’s nothing
but beginning of Terror we’re still just able to bear,
and why we adore it so is because it serenely
disdains to destroy us.2
Because I name beauty in a phrase, a text, an occurrence when the phrase, text, occurrence simultaneously stir intellect and emotion in me, shifting my inner cellular activity, amazement transformed or embodied through a physical pressure or tension that is almost unbearable. Because at first overtaken, rendered passive, suspended in awe, then a gesture toward, a reaching to, an enormous desire to give, touch, take in, merge, intersect with that which is beautiful, which engenders this sensation in me.
And I am happy.
With what I said.
Why don’t you prettily bow.
Because it shows thought.3
And I say. On the page. In the voice-vibrated air. In a language. That is many moving through another language and another and another. And sometimes I am happy. Because speech disgorged in the violet shadow of morning. On thought’s instrument you bow a melody. And a ship changes direction.
From a recess you’d watch me sitting there, unspeakably beautiful in my bloody nakedness: I was the only constellation the rain hadn’t extinguished, I was the Great Southern Cross.4
The crux and difficulty of the point seen, in a suspended fragile moment, with perfect clarity.
Intricate finely chiseled
held up to public domain.
in light of status and use
in light of customs and kinship.5
Yet lived and searched for in the world, in the social, in the outer not just the inner, in the transaction, in the fleeting, in the ordinary, in the now, in the next. Specifically and irrefutably of the matter while transcending the matter.
Nothingness is beautiful6
Many try (and fail) to wright this.
What we praise we believe, we fully believe. Very fine. Belief thin and pure and clear to the title. Very beautiful… Belief lustful and eager and curious before beauty. Very bright.7
What it inspires it gives, it fully gives. Very infinite. Giving ample and buoyant and lucid to the question. Very bounteous… Giving intricate and copious and aroused before bounty. Very broad.
[Follow-up: of the praised: because at first overtaking, rendering passive, suspending in awe, then appears a gesture, a coming toward, an enormous desire to receive, touch, take in, merge, intersect with that which praises, which engenders this sensation in me?]
The worship of beauty
Or beautiful things take a long time getting used to.
There is no past in beauty.8
Those that see a connection between beauty and goodness (good was once spelt God) may go beyond the usual dictionary, which traces the word, through Middle English bealte, beute, to Latin bellus, beautiful. For bellus is from benelus, diminutive of benus, from bonus, good. Hence the beautiful and the beneficial are etymologically linked. On the other hand, it should be remembered that the Latin bellum means war.9
[Follow-up: “Helen who bequeathed to her people clang of shields, press of spears, throng of ships”?10]
(see And; see Copulation)
(see Beauty, Form, and Measure)11
Can you point me toward a poem you find beautiful? In what way do you think of or experience this poem as beautiful?
Do you hope for, look toward, seek out beauty in your work as a poet? Why or why not?
(see Yes; see Quotation Three)
Do you hope for, look toward, seek out beauty in other aspects of your life?
(see Yes; see Quotation Five)
beauty is fearsome and worth unruliness in coming12
- Oana Avasilichioaei, Lemonhound, Montreal, 2013.
- Rainer Maria Rilke, “The First Elegy” in Possibility of Being, tr. J. B. Leishman, New York: New Directions, 1964, p.79.
- Gertrude Stein, Lifting Belly, Tallahassee: The Naiad Press, 1989, p.4.
- Paul Celan, “Erau Nopți” in Romanian Poems, (my translation), Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2003, p.72.
- Caroline Bergvall, “Fig 3” in Fig, Cambridge: Salt Publishing, 2005, p.118.
- Vasko Popa, “Beautiful Nothingness” in Collected Poems, trs. Anne Pennington & Francis R. Jones, London: Anvil Press, 1997, p.301.
- Lisa Robertson, “Monday” in The Weather, Vancouver: New Star Books, 2001, p.11-12.
- Jack Spicer, “Thing Language” in The Collected Books of Jack Spicer, Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1975, p.222.
- Joseph T. Shipley, Dictionary of Word Origins, Iowa: Littlefield, Adams & Co., 1959.
- Aiskhylos. Agamemnon. Trans. Anne Carson. An Oresteia. London: Faber & Faber, 2010. p.24.
- Carla Harryman & Lyn Hejinian, The Wide Road, Brooklyn: Belladonna Books, 2011, p.133-134. Carla Harryman & Lyn Hejinian, The Wide Road, Brooklyn: Belladonna Books, 2011, p.133-134.
- felix p. d. & odile a., ff or letters to a fellow fluency, Toronto: BookThug, forthcoming 2015.
Poet, translator and editor Oana Avasilichioaei’s books include We, Beasts (Wolsak & Wynn, 2012, winner of the QWF’s A. M. Klein Prize for Poetry), feria: a poempark (Wolsak & Wynn, 2008) and a poetic collaboration with Erín Moure, Expeditions of a Chimæra (BookThug, 2009). She has translated poetry from the Romanian of Nichita Stănescu (Occupational Sickness, 2006), the Quebecois French of Louise Cotnoir (The Islands, 2011), and most recently Wigrum, a novel by Daniel Canty (forthcoming with Talonbooks, Fall 2013). Recent editing projects include a feature on poetry in translation from the Quebecois French for Aufgabe (New York, Spring 2013). Some of her sound and collaborative work can be found here.