A constellation of key images may seem to be imagery, not voice at all; but Kunitz’s decision to connect distinctive voice with a recognizable beat and images, and to further suggest that these mesh to in the compositions of a poet who is writing with clarity and authenticity (my interpretation of what he means by “working at their center”), indicates that voice is a critical component of poetry. I have read the above-mentioned lecture, but Kunitz does not there elaborate on whether he means the writer’s personality, style, or attitude or whether he means, instead, persona. It seems to me, though, that he wasn’t talking about persona (the “speaker” or mask the writer uses in an individual piece). I interpret that the key constellation of images, the “individuating node,” would have to be personal experience of the actual writer–Roland Barthes be damned.
Gaston Bachelard’s phenomenological approach to poetics and, to some extent, psychology, appears to jive with Kunitz’s pivotal childhood images. It is easier to recognize one’s own key images in one’s work, of course…and I cannot help but recognize that Kunitz has nailed it for me, at least, if not for all poets (writers, artists, musicians, etc.). My own cluster of images, drawn from childhood, include the church. Also the beat of hymns and responsive readings and the King James and RSV Bibles. Also the bleat and wail of diesel engine horns, the progression of fields and trees and flowers, the hum of highways, the sluggish flow of certain rivers. To mention but a few that stay with me.
I am not an adherent to any particular style or form of literary critique, and I am not a whole-hearted phenomenologist, either–but I have to admit that these concepts (the individual’s key images, the individual voice and the persona voice, the rhythm or beat of a writer/speaker) intrigue me. I find them well worth exploring, mulling over.
See Dave Bonta’s Via Negativa post here for a mini-photo-essay that illustrates what I mean.
I have only read Bachelard s Poetics of Space. Which book would your recommend to read next?
I like Earth and Reveries of Repose. I have not yet found a copy of his book Water and Dreams, the title of which interests me. Alas, I do not read French, so I have to track down a translation. I know there is one but I haven’t made it a priority to locate it.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Also: The Poetics of Reverie. I read that one first of all.
If you can find it, take a look at the short-film, “Super-8 Mom”. It’s a hell of a lot like that Via Negativa post.
LikeLiked by 1 person
[…] that my answers to some of their inquiries connect with my last post about poetic voice and Kunitz’s thoughts on key images. (The longer, but edited, version of the interview appears in the […]
Your phrase, “key constellation of images” as the artist’s (poet/writer) personal experience is quite apt, I think. As constellations appear in different parts of the sky perhaps so does the artist’s experiences in different pieces. As always, much to think about.