Jay Macpherson Suniti Namjoshi - Essay

Suniti Namjoshi

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Superficially, there seem to be some obvious differences between The Boatman and Welcoming Disaster. The second in some ways seems much "simpler." It is my purpose here to explore some of the similarities and differences….

As Reaney makes clear, the central myth of The Boatman is that of the ark [see excerpt above]. The ark appears to contain us, as though we were trapped in the belly of some monstrous creature, and its contents appear to be hopelessly miscellaneous; but properly perceived, Man, in fact, contains the ark, and its contents are ordered…. (p. 54)

Noah's salvaging operations at the time of the flood correspond to the activity of the poet, the man who perceives or "dreams" and thus makes "a Cosmos of miscellany." In other words, Noah, Endymion (the sleeping shepherd) and the poet merge into one another. The type of the poet is, of course, Orpheus; and Narcissus, Orpheus and Psyche are interconnected figures. Narcissus is not seen in a negative light by Jay Macpherson. He also is the type of the poet, and the elegiac Orpheus engages in the same activity. But the poet as an Orpheus or as a Psyche are conceptions that are of greater importance to the second book (Welcoming Disaster) than to the first, because both stories contain an element that is missing in the stories of the other figures. Both Orpheus and Psyche have to make a journey underground. Redemption is no longer a matter of starting with the world of the fall and gradually proceeding upwards. In the second book it becomes necessary to hit bottom and then to make the journey up with a fully regained or "half-regained Eurydice." Now the problem is not simply to get the animals outside, but to find the way to that perception again, the source of dreaming…. (pp. 54-5)

[As] Reaney makes clear about The Boatman, the separation of the sexes corresponds to the separation between Man and Nature…. In The Boatman it is enough to say that in a fallen world all attempts at union are bound to be somewhat unsatisfactory…. In Welcoming Disaster the corpses that result from this disjunction have to be recognized and acknowledged. They have to be given their due. It is only then that they can in any...

(The entire section is 932 words.)