SHARKPACK Poetry Review

An imprint of FATHOMBOOKS.

FL: Laura (Riding) Jackson’s “The Wind Suffers”


The wind suffers of blowing,
The sea suffers of water,
And fire suffers of burning,
And I of a living name.

As stone suffers of stoniness,
As light of its shiningness,
As birds of their wingedness,
So I of my whoness.

And what the cure of all this?
What the not and not suffering?
What the better and later of this?
What the more me of me?

How for the pain-world to be
More world and no pain?
How for the old rain to fall
More wet and more dry?

How for the wilful blood to run
More salt-red and sweet-white?
And how for me in my actualness
To more shriek and more smile?

By no other miracles,
By the same knowing poison,
By an improved anguish,
By my further dying.

The general deadening risk of anaphoric structure in “The Wind Suffers” is interrogated by Jackson’s abandonment of connectives and conjunctions (‘And what the cure of all this?’ ‘How for the old rain to fall,’ ‘What the more me of me?’), her refusal to yield to the gerund (or, if you like, her refusal to be ‘presently progressive’), and, most importantly, a palpable sincerity, an existential thrownness that speaks to both meaning and grammar.

‘The wind suffers of blowing’—how immediately early Renaissance paintings spring to mind, featuring Aeolus or Zephyr with pink and puffy cheeks; on the heels of that, I chide myself for anthropomorphism relating to this natural thing, the wind; as a lasting coda, I wonder how wind can ‘blow’ without a force to expel or propel it (trees can be ‘blown’ by wind, obviously), and what it must mean for the wind to be ‘made,’ and in being made, suffer. This quandary grows knives following:

The sea suffers of water,
And fire suffers of burning,
And I of a living name.

Notice how cleverly Jackson mixes gerunds (and thus paces) here: ‘The sea suffers of water’—that is, of the thing which composes it, which defines its ‘seaness,’ without which it would cease to be a sea—the fire of burning,’ without which it cannot be ‘progressively present’; and ‘I,’ the speaker, ‘of a living‘ name, a name—a manner of being—that is defined by nomination (haecceity, perhaps). In all quarters, it is the pressure to be extant that causes suffering, and the action of life is shown as rooted in plain ‘living,’ subsistence, implying that even stasis is restive with the demand to ‘live on.’ This collapse of subsistence and action is further illuminated, in the next stanza, by the trials of ‘stone,’ ‘light,’ the bird for her ‘wingedness,’ and the speaker, again, for her ‘whoness’—the next thing that her ‘living name’ demands is a definition, apparently, an object to which her signifier points.

The speaker beings to experience psychic vertigo, listing barely intelligible opposition (‘What the better and later of this?’ or ‘How for the old rain to fall/More wet and more dry?’) and resolutions (the ‘pain-world’ is solved by becoming ‘more world and no pain) as the experiential ‘outside’ pressures her senses: one can almost see the speaker sitting in a tight corner, head-in-hands. It is only through something like defiance, a refusal to either placate or be placated

And how for me in my actualness
To more shriek and more smile?

that the formerly boundless suffering (that is, suffering that began at conscious ‘being’) is confronted: it is by ‘the same knowing poison’ (by the poison that already ‘knows’? by the poison known as Knowing?) and an ‘improved anguish’ that the speaker approaches cessation, the end of being. ‘Improved anguish’ . . . is this, via Jean-Paul Sartre, embracing the verges of death while one lives? an anguish that lives to unapologetically reveal what binds anguish to being?

Which, in the second case, may be ‘everything.’

3 responses to “FL: Laura (Riding) Jackson’s “The Wind Suffers””

  1. I love the drawing of the leaves. Friggin beautiful! The poem doesn’t interest me all that much, but that is just me.

  2. Will check out Stephanie Adam’s work though. That intrigued me.


  3. […] the most legibly narrative lines in the piece, recalling the asyndeton of (Riding) Jackson’s “The Wind Suffers.” Notice, specifically, the entrance of a gallery with ‘Who they we cannot’; overt (perhaps […]

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