Evanescence, Form, and the Form of Evanescence

By Julia Russell

In the late afternoon I opened the shade in my room in Lewis Hall, which faces off campus toward Davis Square, just in time to catch the last few moments of the sunset over Somerville.

The sun’s descent—
Silhouettes of rooftops and trees,
Birds fly in the distance.

I can easily see evanescence and form as two separate ideas: evanescence, hakanasa, is the concept of constant change, while form, kata, is the practice of routine, giving regularity to our unstable world (Lecture 1). I understand how this manifests itself in nature; “In spring, the dawn is most beautiful…In winter, I like early mornings” (Shōnagon 11:63, as cited in Inouye 7). Emphasizing elements of each season demonstrates the consistency of the way things change. I’m impressed by how there can be such a “cultural consensus” (Inouye 15) on a single image’s interpretation. Where I was/am a bit confused is how this concept of “the form of evanescence” (Inouye 14) transfers over to the human world and day-to-day life. I can see some connection with the “non-symbolic” quality of animism (Lecture 1). A lack of metaphor makes the spiritual world more tangible, suggesting that we are a part of it, rather than outsiders looking in on the divine, as in Christianity, for example. There is an understanding of “participation” in the natural world, as well as the natural world’s role in our lives (Kitagawa, 48). There is no “distance” between humans and the natural world in ancient poetry (Inouye, 25), and I guess this idea has evolved as part of the modern mindset. So the evanescence and form, and the specific “form of evanescence” (Inouye 14) easily observable in our environment holds a highly personal relevance because we are not really observing it, we are a part of it. This makes tentative logical sense to me, for now.

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3 Responses to Evanescence, Form, and the Form of Evanescence

  1. I can see this in my MIND’S EYE! Great poem.

  2. Enjoyed this poem. It’s the word “silhouettes” that does it for me. It’s says so much with one word, almost haunting.

  3. Griffin Quasebarth says:

    Professor Inouye talked about poems transporting us to the moment of inspiration and I feel like your poem does just that. I can feel the serenity of this moment

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