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This article is taken from PN Review 197, Volume 37 Number 3, January - February 2011.

Poetry and Voice: The Urge to Nowhere David Herd

1. Terms

My interest here is in the relation between three terms: politics, place, voice. I want to begin by presenting a philosophically authoritative, poetically seductive construction on that relation. I want then to consider how that seductive construction is altered by the registration of what, reasonably, we can term a non-place. In particular I want to follow the implications of thinking about that non-place not as annexe or as exception but as point of orientation, as the site through which differing interpretations of the relation – politics, place, voice – can emerge. The poetically seductive, philosophically authoritative construction is supplied for us by Heidegger. ‘Let us listen once more,’ he says in ‘Building Dwelling Thinking’,

to what the language says to us. The Old Saxon wuon, the Gothic wunian, the old word bauen, mean to stay in a place. But the Gothic wunian says more distinctly how this remaining is experienced. Wunian means to be at peace, to be brought to peace, to remain in peace.1

The non-place, the site to which the argument will return in interlude, stands on the location of the old Drop Redoubt Fort on Dover’s Western Heights. Secretly it provides one of the best views in Britain, situated, as it is, just outside.


2. Dwelling

To describe Heidegger’s construction of the relation between place and voice as seductive is not at all to dismiss it. Few twentieth-century writers worked harder ...
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