English 564:001 / Fall 2004 / Susan Tichy / George Mason Univers/ity

Leonard Diepeveen's Changing Voices

If you want to read notes on ther rest of this book, use this link, then click on the link to take you to Diepeveen. Scroll down to where these notes stop...

Back to CVC Week 8

From Leonard Diepeveen's Changing Voices: The Modern Quoting Poem. University of Michigan Press, 1993.
Changing Voices looks at the consequences of those instances in Modern American poetry when a poet chooses not to allude to another text, but to quote it: to exactly duplicate a source, and in so doing to write those awkward and powerful texts that this book will classify as the Modern quoting poem. (vii)
In the notes below, passages indented or in quotation marks are Diepeveen’s words. Bracketed passages are my elaborations. The rest is my paraphrase / commentary on Diepeveen. Page numbers are in parentheses.          

Quoting Arts  /  Structure of Quotations /  Shock of the Exact  /  Voice  

“A good stealer is ipso facto a good inventor.”
-- Marianne Moore, notebook entry (Moore Archive, 1250/1, 118; quoted p2)
In Chapter One: The Quoting Arts  Diepeveen defines “quoting poems” as those that
incorporate phrases that precisely duplicate the verbal patterns of the original source, stealing for the new poem the conceptual content and the texture of a previously existing text. Quoting poems do not transform to suit their purposes the words of the text from which they borrow; they duplicate the intrusive textural, material properties of another text. (2)
Texture is an important word for Diepeveen’s arguments, for
[i]n their stealing from other texts, quoting poems do not initially receive the impetus for their energies from a paraphrasable, interchangeable conceptual content (such as plot, theme, or imagery) of that other text....In our reading experience of quoting poems the formal properties of the quotation precede and define their conceptual content, showing that the quotation is indeed unparaphrasable. Texture asserts the idiosyncratic rather than the interchangeable. Texture does not just define the sounds of a group of words, it has consequences. It shows how these sounds point to and are part of those words’ individual, nonparaphrasable meanings. Texture also implies a quotation’s history, its past, “original” use and this original use’s earlier appropriations by culture. (2-3)
[This is a crucial observation. It defines the precise difference between quotation and allusion and in the same stroke demonstrates why quoting poets use nonparaphrased, nonparaphrasable material. The question is not simply the paraphrasability (or lack thereof) of the content of source words; the question is their physical, material presence. And their physical, material presence is required because it is part of the words’ meanings. Notice that “meaning” here does not equal content, but something closer to what Charles Bernstein calls the “meaning complex” of a text, made up of all its elements, including form.]

He then quotes Derrida:
Every sign, linguistic or nonlinguistic, spoke or written...can be cited, put between quotation marks; in so doing it can break with every given context, engendering an infinity of new contexts in a manner which is absolutely illimitable. This does not imply that the mark is valid outside of a context, but on the contrary that there are only contexts without any center or absolute anchoring [anchrage]. This citationality, this duplication or duplicity, this iterability of the mark is neither an accident nor an anomaly, it is that (normal/abnormal) without which a mark could not even have a function called “normal.” What would a mark be that could not be cited? Or one whose origins would not get lost along the way?   (5, ellipsis mine
Diepeveen’s project, however, is to examine a particular type of citation. He is not interested in how meanings are limitless, but in “how writers attempt to control meaning.”
The forms of this control can be seen as the underlying subject of this book. As the quoting poem shows, the act of quoting is incredibly directed: any signal of a quotation redirects the reader’s attention. (5)
Unlike Derrida’s “citation”, Diepeveen’s “quotation” is distinguished from allusion and is highly specific. More useful to his argument is Bakhtin on monologic and diologic discourse. Though Bakhtin more or less uses “poetry” as a code word for “monologic,” his concept of heteroglossia (defined as “another’s speech in another’s language”) is important in relation to poetic voice in a quoting poem.  (6; see also p17)

Diepeveen then further defines his own project by setting up a “continuum of textual appropriation” between “quotation” and “allusion.” Points on the continuum can range from
exact copying, to mixing one’s own words into the stolen, to borrowing not the words but their conceptual content. Intertextual borrowing can occupy a point anywhere along this line. Further, all borrowings, whether the pure allusion or the exact quotation, always have resonance from either extreme... Quoting (and, by implication, allusion) is a mongrel technique. (7)
He then catalogues the ways we recognize quotations. We may recognize the quote as such without the help of graphic markers (e.g. “London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down” in “The Waste Land”). We may be told by notes the poet appends to the poem. We may have to take it on faith: we’ve never seen the words before, but they appear in quotation marks, so we take them as quotation.

From a reader’s point of view, all these forms of recognition work, and make quotation functional, because “[q]uotation marks, even when not enclosing an actual quotation, always signal the appropriation of another voice or speech with which the author does not completely want to identify, as when someone apologizes for using a cliché by enclosing it in quotation marks.” (15) And because
All quoting...exploits an alien texture, whether such texture be real or imagined. When a work of art quotes, the emphasis upon a “paraphrasable,” nontextural world fades. The duplicatable formal properties of a world of texts become the first cause in the aesthetic equation, the elements from which readers take their cue on how to handle the quotation’s conceptual properties....As we shall see in Chapter 4 [on poetic voice] quoting has varying ideological agendas, but all such agendas result from quoting’s formalist presupposition: disruption is based upon texture, upon certain formal characteristics of a work. (15-16)
In the last section of this chapter, Diepeveen provides an introduction to Moore’s use of quotation.
The quotation’s original function remains unknown because it is unimportant (although the fact that it is unknown is important); quotations do not have an authority of origin in her poetry. Moore does not quote to place herself in a prestigious literary tradition, to gain admittance to a select club. The quotation is crucial, but readers know only its texture and isolated conceptual content, and not any other of the claims that it theoretically could load upon the poem.  As a result, the quotations in her poetry become cyphers of mysterious import, clearly asserting only their own alienness. The texture of Moore’s quotations have a primarily negative function: at the center of these quotations, at  least, one does not find the poet’s voice. Quotations allow Moore to hide the identity and the texture of the new poem’s voice. (19-20)

Diepeveen’s Chapter Two: The Structure of Quotations introduces the structural elements of quotation, all of which are predicated on the idea of “the gap.”

Quotations establish a difference from their surrounding text & thus create a crucial rhythm to our reading process. All quoting poems introduce a two-stepped reading process as the quoting and the quoted texts “bump worlds.” A quotation that is physically marked off in any way (quotation marks, italics, indentation, white space, etc.) makes a separate visual unit. Diepeveen discusses normative “gaps” in poetry (such as line breaks, syntactic breaks or turns, punctuated transitions) and the more disjunctive gaps typical of Modernism, some of which lean toward quotation’s textural disruption. [And some of which might qualify as “collage” in other readers’ critical vocabularies.] Diepeveen argues that quotation’s disruption is qualitatively different, partly because it can simply appear, “syntactically unannounced but visually disruptive.” (26)

When quotations are absorbed syntactically by the framing poem, a reader must deal with simultaneous contradictory signals: quotation marks announce “a new presence of a dubious nature” while the smooth syntax denies such a presence. This “relational incongruity” structures our reading, which is further complicated when the quoted material contains its own structure--for example, its own metaphoric structure. How, as readers, do we read this metaphor as both in the poem and of some other context? Must we be nervous about violating some original function of the quoted phrases? (39)

[This aspect of quotation ties it to visual collage and, in some poems, to Cubism. Quotations in Diepeveen’s sense are not dialogue, attributed to characters speaking in a poem, but simply pieces of text, sequences of quoted words, that are glued into the discourse of the quoting poem as a piece of newspaper might be glued onto a canvas. Sometimes the quoted words are absorbed into a logical or descriptive discourse of the quoting poem; sometimes not. Sometimes they may be partially absorbed, relating to the content of the quoting poem via one element, but resisting via others--as when a piece of cut newspaper in a Picasso collage takes on the shape of a bowl holding three images of pears, but also remains a piece of (readable) newspaper.]

“Since the text does not do it,” Diepeveen argues, “readers themselves must acknowledge and find a use for the gap between the poems’ different textures and conceptual strategies...” even when (as often in Moore) the poem writes over its transitions and thus does not seem to be overtly structured on gaps. Even when quotation marks are virtually all that set off the language of the quotation readers will “see” a different voice and begin to attribute characteristics to it. This is made more acute because
readers tend to create a unified mass from the remaining, nonquoting texture of the poem. And...the gap is silent: we don’t know why Moore quotes certain phrases...but all this silent and unaccountable difference gives the gaps a function--a quirkily disarming one, perhaps, but one that helps create the tone of Moore’s poetry and deflect the poem from a too-comfortable status as an artifact of high art. (28)
Diepeveen quotes Margorie Perloff on collage, then parallels her statements to Pound’s sculptural model of poetry: “One uses form as a musician uses sound. One does not imitate the wood dove, or at least one does not confine oneself to the imitation of wood-doves, one combines and arranges one’s sound or one’s forms into Bach fugues or into arrangements of colour, or into ‘planes in relation.” (Pound quoted 31-32) This implies a nonmimetic art, and also an art in which readers must actively construct relationships between “planes” as they read. Of course, all reading, especially of Modernism, may be said to do this, but a quoting poem accentuates such relations.

These lines of reasoning lead Diepeveen to one of (Modern) poetry’s conundrums--how can we reconcile affects of artistic instantaneousness (implicit in all sculptural metaphors for form) with the essentially temporal nature of not only narrative and argument but language itself: one word follows another, and any affects of simultaneity must be created with that paradox. (35) Despite the efficacy of spatial metaphors, temporal progress is the essence of reading, present and even accentuated in poems for which a reader must construct meaning across gaps: such poems “foreground reading as a strenuous process.” (36)
Since the gap [in a quoting poem] is silent, readers need to base the relations they construct on some underlying principles, principles that account for the jarring interaction between quotation and the new text. Readers must supply information to make the quoting text behave like a less disjunctive text--in effect, to give the text coherence. Therefore, in addition to noticing simply that a new world has been fused into the poem, readers attribute qualities to this new world; they attempt to discover its relevant stylistic and other values. (41)
From this statement, Diepeveen launches into a reading of quotation at the start of Moore’s “An Octopus,” where the obvious creation of a metaphor for the glacier, in the title/first line, is followed by increasing confusion re: what the poem is actually about. Quotations keep arriving, and keep redefining the subject. Some quotes elaborate the octopus metaphor to a point where one begins to believe the octopus is, after all, central. Moore’s notes to the poem do nothing to help a reader decide, as Diepeveen puts it, which values of the quotations are most relevant and important to the poem. We are thrown back on evaluating such qualities as “affirmation” or “negation” among the poem’s various quotations--concluding, he argues, that values such as “animated, animal-like activity” and “spooky grandeur” are values shared by both quoted and “original” lines. He quotes John Slatin calling the quotations “lenses” which “distort” our view of the mountain [as if there is an “undistorted” view waiting somewhere to be found? ST] so that “in the course of the poem we see both the mountain and the problem of seeing the mountain from a number of different vantage points.” [Emphasis Slatin’s, presumably.] Diepeveen asserts something further, however: that such distortion is elemental to quotation, and that part of the pleasure of reading the poem comes from “witnessing how the poet manipulates and relates all this material toward a single purpose.” (43-44)

[Though I understand Diepeveen’s point about the pleasure of Moore’s performance, I question the embedded statement--that there is a “single purpose” to “An Octopus.” If I were compelled to say there is one, I might use Slatin’s words to state what it is: the problem of seeing the mountain.]

Chapter Three: “The Shock of the Exact” takes on the question of “originality” in the quoting poem -- always an obsession in American literature.
Quotation marks ensure that readers are aware of two struggling forces: the quotations’ previous existence and something of the quoting poet’s hold over the quotation. But the gaps in the most disjunctive quoting poems [Diepeveen doesn’t include Moore in this category] don’t give readers a clear sense of the poet’s allegiances to the quotations and readers’ ambivalences about the originality of the quoting poem is an ambivalence about these allegiances, about the poet’s choice of and attitude towards the quotations; in short, an ambivalence about how the quoting poem’s gaps function. (50)
Quoting Emerson (“I hate quotation.”), Edmond Wilson (The Waste Land lacks “structural unity”), and William Carlos Williams, Diepeveen begins a discussion about American (and avant-garde) anxiety about originality, the correct relationship to antecedents, American language, autonomy of the poem, and the political implications of using/remaking the forms of the past. He argues that all quoting poets believe in some form of universality. For Pound and Eliot, it takes the form of an ideology about the past. For Moore and Cummings it takes the form of “transformation.” (50-64)

[I read his use of ‘transformation” as a free-floating equality of sources tied, presumably, to texture more than to content. “Transformation” as a value seems to be empowered by--or perhaps to be--the artist’s universal and universalizing ability to make any material function abstractly--that is, to find in it some quality (texture Diepeveen might say) that allows its transformation from a content-and-context-bound “original” function to a new position that both retains and transcends its origins.

Creating a Canon

Here Diepeveen argues that Moore (in common with Cummings) used her canon of quotations exclusively “to expand the subject matter of poetry, not to promote individual texts” (as Pound and Eliot did). Moore, he says, opens poetry to “new classes of expression.” Because her sources are more or less contemporary with the poem she is making, and because she doesn’t depend on “contrasting the quotation’s original rhetorical function with its function in the new setting,” and because her quotations “only marginally impinge on the social world of the reader,”

[“Any canon of sources creates new meanings by using the poet’s and the reader’s cultural repertoire,” he says (68), but he never examines Moore’s sources (or even her source genres) in terms of “cultural repertoire.” Hers seems to me to be a canon of sources that says to a reader: “You have the necessary materials at your fingertips.” Where Eliot’s notes to “The Waste Land” exist to “make clear to readers the club to which Eliot does, and to which the reader may not belong”(70), Moore’s exist to make clear that the only “club” is one of perception, not education or access. Where Pound’s and Eliot’s poems make readers see their quoted material for the first time as “alive” and “part of an important tradition,” Moore’s poems are said to make readers see her quoted material for the first time “as poetry.” (70) Access to the materials of poetry is utterly democratic in Moore, though the ability to find poetry in those materials never is.

Thus her quoting poems are underwritten by a definition of culture and a definition of the poetic act that is fundamentally different from that identified in Pound and Eliot. Her high art elitism, if that’s what it is, is not founded on a relation to the past, access to education (a “cultural repertoire” of high art texts), or a publicly perceived role as cultural interpreter; instead, it is founded on an individual relationship to language and to the act of making (though she would call it selecting). Her “commentary on contemporary culture” is constructed of materials found in contemporary culture itself, materials which then “speak” back to us through Moore’s voice within the quoting poem.

New Metaphors
The concrete elements in [quoting] poems occur as the accidents of particular texts, but they also hint that there is something inherently concrete and sensuous about quotations. ...[Q]uotations must always first recreate the physical voice of another physical text before they can use its abstract content. Either the quotation marks or readers’ knowledge of the quotation as quotation ensure this primacy, even when nothing of the quotation is known. Even when the quotation functions as part of readers’ cultural repertoire, readers’ knowledge of the quotation as quotation inevitably occurs as a result of the quotation’s sensuous properties (diction, language, meter) rather than its conceptual content. This knowledge of the quotation as quotation separates the quotation from the quoting text and further highlights its sensuous properties. Delimited by various means, quotations are objects within the poem--they have a separate existence apart from the poem’s rhetoric, and just as the poem as an art object emphasizes its sensuous properties, so does the quotation. 77
The level of concreteness is not always the same--Pound uses techniques, for example, that insist more strongly than Moore does on the quotation’s concrete properties. Diepeveen says of “In This Age of Hard Trying,” for example--

“Taller by the length of
    a conversation of five hundred years than all
        the others,” there was one, whose tales
            of what could never have been actual--
     were better than the haggish, uncompanionable drawl

of certitude; his by-
    play was more terrible in its effectiveness
        than the fiercest frontal attack.
            The staff, the bag, the feigned inconsequence           
of manner, best bespeak that weapon, self-protectiveness.
Since the quotation doesn’t introduce a noticeable disjunction of meter, syntax, or diction, and since the rest of the poem takes up the possible disjunction of image (the quotation’s topic) and ties it to the rhetorical strategy of the poem, the quoting poem’s rhetorical structure overruns the quotation. In the case of this poem, the overrunning is quite complete. Because the poem establishes a new world that comfortably encloses the quotation’s world, the quotation’s imagery fits in with the poem, as does its rhetoric. No knowledge of the source exists to allow properties outside of the snippet just quoted to interfere with the new world of the poem. Indeed, only the original voice (signaled by the quotation marks, the peculiar content of the metaphor within the quotation, and a few qualities of the diction) resists the world of the new poem. As a result, in these lines the metaphoric structure and concrete resistance of this quoting poem is small, with little stretching required to fit the quoting poem’s world over the quotation.
Why are poets interested in the quoting poem’s metaphor structure? For the same reason that  Pound was (mistakenly) excited about the ideogram: he believed that the ideogram combined pictures of objects in order to make an abstraction. Pound argued that Chinese writing put together the pictures for rose, iron rust, cherry, and flamingo to make the concept “red.” The virtues for poetry are clear... Those writers who quote ensure that they stay in contact with concrete objects. As do metaphors, quotations allow poets to avoid overworked or hackneyed language often found in abstractions... and to create a new poetic language. 79-80
[What Diepeveen does not mention here is metonymy. Definitions of metonymy generally limit it to the passive function of referring to an unnamed thing by mentioning something with which it is associated, as when presidential statements are prefaced with “the White House said today...” Active metonymy, however, is a mode of perception in which an unnamed meaning is defined or even created by the association of images, statements, and sound textures. (Not all juxtapositions, lists, or catalogues create metonymy: a list of heros standing for the unnamed concept of “hero,” for example, is not metonymy, nor is a list like “rust, cherry, flamingo,” in which we look for the common denominator and come up with “red.”) Metonymy is, fundamentally a mode of expression that resists paraphrase by cleaving to the concrete. Quoting poems may be metonymic, particularly when, as Diepeveen puts it, readers cannot tell which quality(ies) of the quotations are “important” and therefore cannot reduce their relations to paraphrase. Diepeveen’s idea of texture is important here, for meaning can be created metonymically by the association of the various textures of quoted and quoting language. The more complex are relations among quotations and among quoted and nonquoted language, the more these relations cross levels of content and form, the more the poem’s meanings remain metonymic. Unlike metaphor, metonymy does not require a hierarchal relationship among its components. Though we may distinguish tenor and vehicle, we need not always do so.

[In Moore this can be quite complex, as in “An Octopus,” where we have difficulty seeing the mountain because of the overspecificity of description and proliferating digression. We are uncertain what is metaphor, what literal, or even what is being described. Figures that seem clearly metaphoric, like the octopus of ice, at times overwhelm what must be more literal elements. Our experience of the mountain therefore becomes the livingness of language--its instability of reference and the sensual equality created among its images and phrases. Thus, though individual language elements may be indentifiable as metaphors, more literal descriptive images, or quotes from Park publications, the meanings they create together are metonymic, occuring in and rising from their association with each other. To switch back to Diepeveen’s terms, each element retains its texture and it is in the play of these textures, as much as in any attempt to locate an argument or overarching metaphor, that we find meaning--and joy--in the poem.]