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PN Review 274
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This article is taken from PN Review 273, Volume 50 Number 1, September - October 2023.

‘from What Is Poetry’ Philip Terry
‘For a poet,’ writes Valéry, ‘it’s never enough to say that it’s raining. It’s necessary… to create rain.’ As if in reply to Valéry, Apollinaire’s poem ‘Il pleut’ (1916) descends like wintry sleet down the page from left to right as it threnodises memory and desire, the words descending like rain, becoming rain, which dissipates all in its path. Joan Brossa’s pamphlet Pluja (1970) takes Valéry’s thought even further. Here, there are no words at all. Opening the pamphlet and flicking through its pages, you could be forgiven, at first glance, for thinking the book had been misprinted, as one page after another is completely blank. Until you notice, with a sense of astonishment, that the pages are slightly mottled: each page has been left out in the rain, then allowed to dry before binding. Each page is written by the rain.


Reading Ted Hughes’s ‘The Secretary’ in The Hawk in the Rain – ‘If I should touch her she would shriek and weeping / Crawl off to nurse the terrible wound…’ – I suddenly realise that the hawk in the rain is Hughes.


Any object whatever, e.g. a place, a locality, a stretch of countryside, however beautiful it may be, if it does not arouse some remembrance, is not poetical at all to look at. The same thing, and even a locality or any object whatever which is decidedly unpoetical in itself, will be very poetical when it is remembered. Remembrance is fundamental and of first importance in poetic feeling, for no other reason than that the present, whatever ...

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