Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Julia Vinograd’s God

In “God’s Violin” Julia Vinograd imagines reality as a tune God plays on his violin.

Good and evil are only high and low
on one string of god’s violin.
There are other strings being played
stretching from our guts to the end of the world.

Like Annie Dillard Vinograd involves God in the business of silence. Unlike Dillard we are the ones whose silence is part of the music, not everything non-us.

Our silences wail under god’s fingers.

We don’t hear the song God’s playing, Vinograd says, being as we’re part of the song. Except sometimes. The mystic’s sudden apprehension of an extra reality –

sometimes … / an echo sweeps us up like a tidal wave / scattering everything we clutch and fight for / out of our hands like spilled popcorn / and we stand in the ruins and laugh. / Afterwards we don’t remember …

Then, and this was my favorite part of the poem, Vinograd admits her metaphor (or perhaps the existence of God?) is irrelevant.

God’s violin doesn’t help anything,
the world’s wounds are part of the music
and anyway, it’s too big.

She concludes the poem by saying the music is for us.

God’s violin is for us

We are such an inseparable ingredient in the tune that we can’t hear it? Except once in a crazy while when everything falls apart? When the tune is at its most dissonant? Then we hear – what? The symphony crashing down on our heads?

I find this sort of God more appealing than most, the God of paradox. Because God just doesn’t make sense. God is not capable of making sense. He is powerless before it. I’m okay with crazy God. But nobody much wants you to open your heart to crazy God and let him be your savior. He doesn’t seem to be in the saving business.

source: Cannibal Casserole: new & selected poems, 1996-2006, by Julia Vinograd


Unknown said...

Sometimes I wonder if I don't like Vinograd. She is always around Cafe Med and readings where old beats show their faces. She publishes unfailingly in Street Spirit, the local homeless people's newspaper. I am always reading her work and seeing her around, and I always dismiss her as being something that might have seemed cool 20 years ago but not anymore. That sounds mean, but a lot of things are like that, so don't accuse me of ageism or something.

Her work is ubiquitous in the East Bay, so that ruins it a lot for me, but I have tried, really tried to like her work, and I just can't. It all seems like the same song, and that's the same song people who were much better than she is sang 50 years ago.

She's tried to sell me Canibal Casserole at least a dozen times, and I read a lot of it at Moe's, but I don't think that I will ever buy it.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

I like Julia. We haven't connected personally, exactly (she never remembers my name), but I buy whatever new book she's pushing. And when I sit down and read it I enjoy it.

Even if she's the best poet in the East Bay it hardly matters if you don't like reading it. I've been reading Emily Dickinson's Complete Poems and it's taken me years because I don't like it. Sure, there are a few pieces that I've connected with. But page after page after page goes by that I don't like. I read her because she's supposed to be the greatest and because I seldom read more than two pages at a sitting.