The open studio essays on art and aesthetics

If so, what are its characteristics? If not, what is the role of metaphor in everyday language and the role of the imagination in culture? Are there universals of human consciousness and universal ethical values? Why are we both drawn to binary thinking and compelled to go beyond it? Is there a way to evade the traps of dialectic?

What are the alternatives to materialism, to metaphysics? How are human beings the makers or creators of themselves? IVES I wonder if you would maintain that many or all of your critical works are, at base, about poetics.

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Metaphor remains a resource both to sustain and transform the world. It seems to me problems of definition—What is poetry? What is poetics? In all of the traditions I have come to know even superficially, poetry is characterized by certain formal features having to do with its relation to time and space. It is composed in patterned, often measured, lines that have distinct beginnings and endings; even when written, poetry thus has rhythm.

What is measured can be stress, sound, or visual marks. The resulting work has an articulated form; it is an occurrence, an instance, or an object, and it is possible to refer to it. Because of the quality of attention we bring to it, poetry is endowed with intensity and value. Because it can be made or performed well, poetry accrues to individual makers and performers.


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Because it can be fictional, poetry carries us beyond lived experience. Because it is both governed by internal rules and beyond the force of external law, poetry is a source of speculation and freedom. I would agree that my prose writing is largely concerned with poetics. Do you consider yourself a philosopher or a literary writer or both—or is the distinction unimportant? Is it possible that you see some significance in a refusal to remain in just one sphere? Except for my endeavors in poetry as a scholar of the history of the form and as a poet, I often have worked at the margins of disciplines, including aesthetics.

Metaphysics particularly must remove itself from the constraints of individual voice if its claims are to be universal, yet the central tenets of metaphysics remain authored and achieve much of their authority from institutional recognition. Even so, the central questions of metaphysics—questions of knowing, the problem of an exterior world, the question of materiality, the nature of life, the relation between the soul and the body, the possibility of liberty, the question of other minds, the origin of Being, the existence of God—have as well been central not only to the themes of poetry, but also to its methods.

Creating poems and pursuing truth are human activities that are inseparable from our humanity itself—these actions separate us from other species that can make, but, so far as we know, cannot judge or contemplate their making. Despite its roots in prophecy, lyric throughout its long history has rarely been written in the future tense or concerned with the future as a theme.

Even so, perhaps this persistent absence indicates something deeper about the free practice of lyric; this very openness may indicate that futurity is nowhere in lyric deixis because it is everywhere.

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The Open Studio: Essays on Art and Aesthetics, 1987 to 2003 / Edition 2

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