a1593 Marlowe Tragicall Hist. Faustus (1604) sig. A2v, Is not thy common talke sound Aphorismes?
1642 J. Howell Instr. Forreine Travell vi. 85 'Tis an old Aphorisme, Oderunt omnes, quem metuunt.
1655 H. More Antidote against Atheism (ed. 2) App. iv. 316 That sensible Aphorism of Solomon, Better is a living Dog than a dead Lyon.
1750 Johnson Rambler No. 68. ⁋10 Oppression, according to Harrington's aphorism, will be felt by those that cannot see it.
1880 G. Smith in Atlantic Monthly No. 268. 201 The suggestive aphorism, ‘The want of belief is a defect that ought to be concealed when it cannot be overcome.’
The first quotation is from Albert Saijo's journal, probably one from the early 2000s. The second is from the Oxford English Dictionary. Aphorism is statement, principle, certainty. This form is very different from the one I wrote about yesterday, namely short narratives about animals that allowed Saijo to let go his taut ethical stance. While animals permitted him to detach, human beings brought out the aphoristic in him. He had a real vein of certainty; the aphorism was its perfect vehicle. It was the economy car to the limousines Saijo drove in his longer rants (the anti-ecological metaphor makes me shiver a bit, or is it the cold spell we're having in Hawai`i?).
The centerpiece of the new Tinfish Press book, WOODRAT FLAT, a "book of days," "GOING NATIVE," consists of a series of aphorisms culled by Jerry Martien from Saijo's notebooks of the late 1980s and early 1990s. On the third page of this selection I find this: "I AM THINKING & DREAMING OF THE SHAPE OF A PROSE I'M NOT YET ABLE TO WRITE--SPRINGING RESILIENT REVELATORY." While the capital letters offer a kind of maximalism--sound as certainty--the brief length of the aphorism offers something different, a minimalism that--at its best--explodes into meaning. A different mode of certainty from that found on the pages of his books or the notebooks, where poem can hardly be distinguished from passing thought from phone numbers or brief memorials to the dead.
Many of the aphoristic sentences in "GOING NATIVE" are observations:
--EUTAMIAS TOWNSENDII (as Martien says in the introduction, this means that Saijo saw a chipmunk)
--EARLY APRIL--SWALLOWS BACK--PAIR HIGH IN SKY FLUTTERING TOGETHER THEN SWOOPING AWAY TOGETHER
--SWEET SPRING CALLS OF SONG SPARROW
and so on.
Others make their arguments in the form of rhetorical question, without punctuation:
--WHAT WOULD BE VIEW OF NATURE THAT IS NEITHER EVOLUTIONIST OR CREATIONIST
--IS EARTH LIFE SHORT BURST OF QUAIL FLIGHT
Many of them are curt rants; these are MAINLY included in the sections "NEW POLITY," VOTER BOYCOTT," and "MAJORITY RULE SNOOP."
--THE QUEST FOR ENLIGHTENMENT IS A SICKNESS THAT WANTS TO BE RELIEVED
--GOVT SPOILS OUR LIVES
--WATCH OUT FOR TROGLODYTE IN FAST LANE
--IT'S TOO LATE TO BE CLEVER
Here are more aphorisms from the notebooks:
[click to enlarge]
Many of these aphorisms are about the form in which they are composed, or about literature itself: Saijo is sick of literature, but he writes anyway; when he couldn't read other people, he began to write himself. But if, as he writes, "WE HAVE CHANGED HISTORY INTO ENTERTAINMENT," then his aphorisms are pithy truth-messages that are entertaining, to boot. As I turn to my twitter feed on break I find this aphorism:
Australian Poetry retweeted
What made Saijo so remarkable a poet--among so many of his qualities--was his willingness to throw out the good lines. Toward the end, he refused to be published. While he did not throw out his notebooks, he kept them to himself, withheld them from the "CIV" he so disdained. But "to throw out a good line" is also to be a good fisherman. When the notebooks become available to a larger public, if only a small band of literary critics and poets, they will be hooked (line and sinker) by his work. (If "work" is done only for the worker, is it still work?") I'll leave that for someone else to figure out.
Blog post #2 on Saijo's notebooks can be found here: http://tinfisheditor.blogspot.com/2015/01/i-think-i-could-turn-and-live-with.html
Blog post #1 on the notebooks here: http://tinfisheditor.blogspot.com/2015/01/on-finding-typo-is-it-in-woodrat-flat.html