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This report is taken from PN Review 46, Volume 12 Number 2, November - December 1985.

The Poetry of Jacques Dupin Stephen Romer

To write about the poems of Jacques Dupin is a risky business. A purist might consider, and with reason, that such an enterprise is inconceivable. For what possible purchase can the parasitic metalanguage of an introduction have on a poetry that is itself a rigorous and continual interrogation upon language, and in particular upon the very act of writing? Any attempt to 'explicate' such poetry is bound to be presumptuous, and for two main reasons. First, because it is in the nature of a commentary to set itself up vertically against a text and impose upon it a 'will to meaning' that too often entails a decoding process during which the body of the poem, like some fanciful piece of architecture, exists only to be dismantled. The second reason, hinted at above, is that Dupin's poems are meshed with their own metalanguage which gives any external commentator an uncomfortable feeling of redundancy. That said, however, these tight constraints do not seem to have inhibited French critics from producing a mass of writing which describes how impossibly difficult it is to write at all. In the light of that, this introduction can perhaps proceed, remaining close to etymology, as a modest lead-in to the poems.

Michel Foucault has written that 'the threshold from classicism to modernity . . . has been definitively crossed when words have ceased to intersect with representations or grid up spontaneously with the knowledge of things'. As a result, he continues, 'it happens that ...


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