Friday, 11 December 2009

Pia Tafdrup: Over the Water I Walk (V) - 1


The word ‘zone’ carries within it a danger. It attracts and repels at the same time. A zone is something someone has designated as an alien region, a terrain in which one is not normally allowed to travel. A closed area, an independent and restricted world that is separated or liberated from the world outside.

I imagine that all human beings have within them a zone, a centre that is filled with energy. That innermost zone is the place where something dangerous is at stake. People’s dealings with the zone may be very different. Some will be able to live their whole lives without ever really coming into contact with it, while others will be knocked down by its power..


Although the innermost zone never permits itself to be defined, it is not simply an unconscious region, a centre of hidden vulnerability or of psychic gravity, even though it could be a specious idea, really more like the middle of being, and thus an existential category.

As an artist one needs to have an especially conscious attitude to the fact that the zone contains material which is inert. Though I may delve into the zone with great caution, I must return as quickly as possible. There is a kernel that must be respected, material about which I must be silent, mysteries that must be allowed to remain mysteries.

Thus the innermost zone contains something that can serve as a beginning, but must never be written out in full. An artist wandering about in this zone is not much different from those African tribes who, after all the depots are emptied of food – either in panic or from sheer ignorance – start to eat the grain that was being stored as seed corn.

The innermost zone is a complex value of consciousness, and is also linked with the anonymity that exists behind the artist’s deeply personal striving.


The innermost zone derives its vitality from what ought never to be spoken aloud.


In the work of forcing language into poetry one’s strength may turn into its opposite. When I demand total presence, I risk being destroyed by the forces I challenge. Rilke writes of how one it is possible to establish contact with one’s centre and either derive strength from it, which can form the basis for creation, or face the danger of being banished into total powerlessness. If the gaze tries to enter and lose its way, things go wrong. Creation always carries the risk of mental disintegration.

The consciousness that the zone exists gives me the strength to be myself. Being oneself is something that ought to be obvious, but this is not always so. It has nothing to do with spontaneity, it is a battle, and therefore a great victory when it succeeds. The innermost zone is a force field from which the new must grow. It is therefore a place that cannot be protected too much. Only one’s consciousness of the zone’s existence is of extreme importance. If I am careful with it, I can have dealings with it for time eternal.

Paul Celan is also an expert in this kind of topography, and he reveals a strange location on the map of the soul:

"Meine Damen und Herren, ich finde etwas, das mich auch ein wenig darüber hinwegtröstet, in Ihrer Gegenwart diesen unmöglichen Weg, diesen Weg des Unmöglichen gegangen zu sein.

Ich finde das Verbindende und wie das Gedicht zur Begegnung Führende.

Ich finde etwas – wie die Sprache – Immaterielles, aber Irdisches, Terrestrisches, etwas Kreisförmiges, über die beiden Pole in sich selbst Zurückkehrendes und dabei – heiterweise – sogar die Tropen Durchkreuzendes –: ich finde… einen Meridian."

 "Ladies and gentlemen, I find something that also gives me a little solace in having taken this impossible route, this route of the impossible, in your presence.

I find the uniting factor, and – as in the poem – the force that leads to the encounter.

I find something – like language – immaterial, but earthly, terrestrial, something circular, something that traverses both poles to return into itself and there – in the serenest of ways – even intersecting the tropics - I find ... a meridian. "

– Something of the same consciousness that Rilke expresses in his idea of a “medial praxis”, written from the centre or ‘middle’, as one seeks a reality that is not yet given.

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