Marvin Bell – The Book of the Dead Man – a start

Martha bought me this collection. She said I needed more poetry in my life. She said she doubted that I would get to it.

I am getting to it now.

The Dead Man of the title reminds me of a thought from Kenneth Burke: “What are we to make of the Dead Man’s reference to Keats? That poetry should come, as Keats wrote, “as naturally as the Leaves to a tree”? To this the Dead man has added the dimension of the minus.”

Burke’s definition of (hu)man states “Man is the symbol-using (symbol-making, symbol-misusing) animal, inventor of the negative (or moralized by the negative), separated from his natural condition by instruments of his own making, goaded by the spirit of hierarchy (or moved by the sense of order), and rotten with perfection.”

It is the “inventor of the negative” that makes us all the Dead (hu)Man, moralized by the negative. And Bell write that through ‘perfected fallibility” the fragment is more than the whole…

The whole is an answer; the fragment a question. And…