September 10, 2007 12:53 PM   Subscribe

A brief history of lighght. via
posted by hototogisu (27 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Recently, he figured he’d make the poem into a Christmas card to send around to some friends—just the word, white on white, centered, and embossed into heavy card stock. “What I realized was that if you emboss it, you don’t need the extra ‘gh,’” he says. “So apparently the crux of the poem is to try and make the ineffable, which is light—which we only know about because it illuminates something else—into a thing. An extra ‘gh’ does it. Embossing it does it. Engraving it in stone, and letting the light play off the actual word, does it, too. It’s sculptural on that level.”

This is not a pipe.

...when Plimpton was asked by a congressman to explain Saroyan’s poem. According to Sabine, he responded, “You are from the Midwest. You are culturally deprived, so you would not understand it anyway.”

I think that about covers it, yes?
posted by prostyle at 1:06 PM on September 10, 2007

posted by Muddler at 1:11 PM on September 10, 2007

While Plimpton's "defense" of the poem is unfortunate (to say the least), it's nonetheless an interesting story.

And (pretentiousness notwithstanding) an interesting poem / idea / way of (literally) looking at language.
posted by dersins at 1:24 PM on September 10, 2007

Saroyan: What I realized was that if you emboss it, you don’t need the extra 'gh'".

I like ththis much better than that Baudelaire stuff we tried reading recently. Thanks!
posted by steef at 1:38 PM on September 10, 2007

i thought eyeye is a better poem.
posted by empath at 2:15 PM on September 10, 2007

You gotta give this guy some credit; he got famous for a misspelling.

That part's fairly poetic.
posted by Malor at 2:33 PM on September 10, 2007

Which one of you literary critics ordered a plate of beans?
posted by The White Hat at 2:42 PM on September 10, 2007

After much deliberation, I have decided I am not a fanan.
posted by knapah at 3:09 PM on September 10, 2007

This was a really great post, thank you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:24 PM on September 10, 2007

I have read several stories about lighght over the years.
I love it.
Thanks hototogisu.
It's a pretty good flame starter, like Pollock is sometimes and Picasso was in the 60s ("My kid could do that.") Haha.


Just beautiful.

I am not sure about it being "poetry", though. As the quote in the post shows, it's a purely visual effect. I don't know what it should be called. Typographphy?
posted by bru at 3:34 PM on September 10, 2007

While i find the letter g annoying, i do like silent letters in words. It is like there is a silence/space/emptiness present within it. Its there and not there. And repeating the silent letters in a word like light, creates more of that space, which gives the sense of more illumination in the poem which i find beautiful.

mm..did someone mention beans?
posted by troubles at 3:41 PM on September 10, 2007

I think it would be hard to say this isn't poetry--just like it's hard to say something similar about Rauschenberg's white canvases not being art. That argument was lost a long time ago.

There's a whole genre of vispo that I know nothing about. Silliman talks about it from time to time, but has linked to much more knowledgeable poets and critics of the subject in the past, Geof Huth being the one example I can remember.

However, "lighght" isn't exactly that. It is indeed a heavily visual effect, but so is a good deal of E.E. Cummings's work. People might say it isn't any good, but I don't know anyone who would say it isn't poetry.

Anyway, I'm glad some of you enjoyed it. On preview, I think troubles hits the nail on the head.

Muddler, misspelling "pretentious"? That is eponysterical all the way to the bank.
posted by hototogisu at 3:50 PM on September 10, 2007

Jesus, in my senior composition class, my teacher made a big deal about this, but spelled it


"It's about the silence of light," Miss Fisher said. I like her version.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:05 PM on September 10, 2007

Aram's website. Some of his poems online.

I love his poem, lighght. It makes me smile inside and feel kind of giddy to see language played with in that way. A gentle kind of existential buzz.

Ezra Pound said, "Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree." I think this applies to Aram's poetry. His work causes the eye and mind to see and feel words differently.

An animated film I really like of Aram's book, “The Street: An Autobiographical Novel” .

He had two very difficult parents. His father, William Saroyan, and his mother, Carol, who later married Walter Matthau and said to be the inspiration for Capote's Holly Golightly character in his Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Aram reading. His Crickets is fun.

His daughters' names are Strawberry and Cream.
posted by nickyskye at 9:12 PM on September 10, 2007

ps This New York Times review of LAST RITES The Death of William Saroyan by Aram Saroyan, describes some of the painful aspects of Aram's relationship with his father. It makes me think of lighght as a kind of triumph.
posted by nickyskye at 9:24 PM on September 10, 2007

This is fuckin boosnaps.
posted by autodidact at 9:56 PM on September 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

posted by pracowity at 3:30 AM on September 11, 2007

Thanks for that review, nickyskye. It was painful and illuminating (and now I want to read the book).


my teacher made a big deal about this, but spelled it

WTF? Did she also rewrite Keats and Dickinson if she felt like it? (No, I'm not saying Aram Saroyan is in their league, to head off idiot responses.)
posted by languagehat at 5:33 AM on September 11, 2007

Muddler, misspelling "pretentious"? That is eponysterical all the way to the bank.

posted by Enron Hubbard at 8:12 AM on September 11, 2007

languagehat, people have been rewriting Dickinson since the moment her poetry saw the light of day -- too many dashes and not enough commas for some, apparently.
posted by obliquicity at 9:39 AM on September 11, 2007

Well, yeah, but I wouldn't expect an English teacher to deliberately change a Dickinson poem because he liked it better his way.
posted by languagehat at 12:50 PM on September 11, 2007

You must have gotten luckier with your English teachers than some of us, languagehat.

I had one who'd never heard of Sylvia Plath.

Not that Sylvia Plath is all that or anything, but to be teaching English to high school kids, and never to have even heard of her?

posted by dersins at 1:05 PM on September 11, 2007

Point taken. My brother had an English teacher who didn't know George Eliot was a woman.
posted by languagehat at 1:12 PM on September 11, 2007

posted by dersins at 1:16 PM on September 11, 2007

although I guess Ms. Evans would be pleased to know that even a century after her death she was still fooling someone.
posted by dersins at 1:17 PM on September 11, 2007

I love Gertrude Stein's line about ‘A rose is a rose is a rose.’ She said that was the first time the rose has been really red in English literature in the past two centuries.”

Ha! What a clever way to end that essay.
posted by SmarterChild at 1:51 PM on September 11, 2007

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