Wednesday, 4 October 2000

From "Poetic Thought"

By J. H. Prynne.

(From "Textual Practice," first a keynote speech given at the Second Pearl River International Poetry
Conference, Guangzhou, P.R. China, on June 14, 2008).

[...] strong poetic thought does indeed demand the unreserved commitment of the poet, deep-down within the choices and judgements of dialectical composition; but before the work is completed, the poet must self-remove from this location, sever the links not by a ruse but in order to test finally the integrity of the result. Indeed, until this removal is effected, the work cannot be truly complete, so that the new-discovered and extended limits of poetic thought form the language-boundaries of the new work.

Some of the limit-rules here are already inherent in language as a system of social practice and grammatical construction; some of the limit-features have to do with a text’s not breaking the bounds of poetry altogether. But, these powerfully signifying limits are valorised by the internal energy of language under intense pressure of new work, new use, new hybrids of practice and reference and discovery.

Here some of the negative definitions already advanced need to be brought back into view. The fingertip energies of a language are not at all merely or mainly intellectual. Intense abstract visualisation, [...] for example, or sonorous echo-function from auditory cross-talk and the history of embedded sound values in the philological development of a language system, [...] all may carry and perform the pressures of new poetic thought. In addition, the formal constraints of structure are not restricted to tight local intensities of challenge to language use: large and extended structures generate tensions of thought-argument, both performative of conceptual and opportune design and also as oppositional bracing, by demand upon logics of completion and straying against an end. Both Milton and Wordsworth are classical masters in apparent straying within the framework of extended form, and of eventual shifted return to the meaning of completion; the same is also true more recently of John Wilkinson [...]

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