Notes on Poems by Edwin Muir and Nathaniel Rudavsky-Brody
by Joshua Mehigan
”Here are the animals. Here are the machines. In the space between them are the people. Their stories converge in the story of language, which is primary, whether you think of it in terms of “Let it be done” and the Adamic language, or of real languages evolved over ten thousand generations in Sub-Saharan Africa, or of C++ and Python. Language has force.
Edwin Muir set his poem “The Animals” at the mythical beginning of Genesis, where the force of language vibrates through everything and can be leveraged to turn a simple-seeming, bittersweet account of the fate of the animals into an uncanny meditation on language and its relation to knowledge and mind, space and time, mortality and eternity.
The setting of Nathaniel Rudavsky-Brody’s “Song in the Old Style,” possibly more alien and mysterious than the earth of the fifth day, is the world the poem calls “Soon,” which we all almost inhabit. Language in this world is brutalized. The people have words, but they don’t care much for them. The loftiest manifestations of language, songs, poems, and prayers, are scripted, the scripts outsourced to machines. The lowest, the most mercenary and shortsighted, are hard not to think of.”
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