150.1: Elizabeth Robinson:: On Rage & On the Difference between Animal and Creature & On Bathing
2 September 2013
"Rage is always past tense" begins Elizabeth Robinson's first of three odes below. The ode itself is rooted in the past tense (like all poems are). The subject is considered at a time in the past and the writing occurs at another time in the past. The magic of the ode, like when we talk about someone's rage, is to at least momentarily create a new present-ness for the subject: "Cheerful music plays in the background. / As though it were playing right now." Think of the power of the philosophical questions raised in Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn." Robinson's odes are aware of and play with this parallel timeline. She confronts the poet's position and knowledge of that position in writing the ode: "They understood that the very act of bathing was a distance / and the body / moved to it, / was doubled." What comes out of these meta-odes is an exploration of the subject, asking us to examine what it means to consider a subject and how the act of choosing to consider it affects it, changes it, overdetermines our thoughts of it. The ode as an act of looking at an electron, causing it to change from wave to particle. As we read Robinson's odes to rage, animality, and bathing, we realize along with her that the more we look at a subject, the less certain we can be of what it really is: "Familiar, recall the odor of the other."