Wednesday, February 06, 2019

'The Yarn Is Weakest at the Knot'

One of my favorite words but one I seldom use: woolgathering. In my book, and in the OED, it’s complimentary: “to indulge in wandering fancies or purposeless thinking; to be in a dreamy or absent-minded state.” Everyone does it, unless you’re a logical positivist. Some of my best ideas burp to the surface during such reveries. The mind is relaxing in a post-massage melt. About nine years ago I learned Kay Ryan, not surprisingly, endorses woolgathering, with or without the hyphen. I find it again in the first stanza of “Denouement” (Like, 2018) by A.E. Stallings:

“Woolgathering afternoon:
All I’ve accomplished, all,
Is to untangle a wine-dark skein
And coil it into a ball.”

No one plays so playfully with language as Stallings. I dare you to read the second stanza aloud and not smile. Gender-bendingly, her Muse is Mozart (or Byron). Have Homeric allusions ever been so quietly amusing?  

“It’s always best to leave
No glitches in the plot;
Sailors tell you that the yarn
Is weakest at the knot.”

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