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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Reflections on the Mackey Concordance

1. He uses a much wider variety of verbs than he does nouns, adjectives and so on. What is the effect of drawing on such a small group of nouns, adjectives, and so on? Does the variety of verbs account for the fluid, dynamic quality of the verse?

2. Perhaps we need a comparison to help us put Mackey's work in perspective. Since William Carlos Williams' variable foot is in some ways similar to Mackey's versification, I am going to look at "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower." (The poem is an excerpt.) The main non-verbs are

death ii
hell ii
color iii
book iii
children ii

flower iiiiiiiiiiiii
green iii
thing ii
love iiiiiiiiiiiiiii
something ii
you iii
time iiiiiiii
memory iiiiii
asphodel iii
odor ii
you iiii
live ii
mind ii
sweet iiiiii
mortal ii
water iii
storm iii
sea iiiiii
poem iiii
silence ii
thoughts iii
garden iii

The verbs are:

concern iii
bloom iii
care ii
hear ii
shaped ii
know iii
meet ii

This is obviously a poem in which an elderly speaker, close to death, discusses his love of flowers and (I presume) his wife in the face of his demise. Williams makes a lot of use of repetition, ("a flower / a weakest flower") to run these tallies up. As with Mackey, the words
that are repeated a lot are nonverbs. Active verbs often appear only once (i.e. "risked.") My conclusion is that the English language itself has within it a variety of active verbs that are made use of by great writers, and that the language tends to focus itself around a group of nouns and adjectives during a written passage.

3. To be continued !!!

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