by Thomas Meyer
Why is it that the best parts of the best poems about mourning have little directly to do with the humanness of grief—with the dead or the bereaved—but eddy instead around objects, fixate on things? Take the yew trees that cycle through Tennyson’s In Memoriam, for example, which the poet randomly thwacks at to assure himself that he is something other than a tree. Or the literal object-quality of Anne Carson’s Nox, a box of a book, which winds up being as much about how paint bleeds through paper as it is about translating Catullus or remembering a dead brother the author barely knew. Or Susan Howe, who named her elegy for her husband That This, collapsing the distance and nearness of things: that snowstorm, this whistling kettle. This snowy, that whistling. Snow kettle.
The intermingling of substances and moments, here one minute, gone the next, is bound together in the title of Thomas Meyer’s Kintsugi, which takes its title from a Japanese word that describes the mending of shattered ceramics with a lacquer mixed with gold. In applications of this technique, the original form of the tea bowl or vase or plate is apparent, while the gold lines that lace it make it impossible to forget the precise pattern in which it broke. A former wholeness, a remembered and illumined rupture, and a new whole all coexist in the same quotidian object.
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