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This article is taken from PN Review 117, Volume 24 Number 1, September - October 1997.

T.E. Hulme: An Introduction II Patrick McGuinness

'Cinders' and 'Notes' contain fantasies of a language that is not a compromise, and under the heading 'Transfer physical to language' Hulme writes, in 'Notes':

Dome of Brompton in the mist. [...] And the words moved until they became a dome, a solid, separate world, a dome in mist [...] Aphra took the words, and they grew into a round smooth pillar...

Fantasies of solidity and precision jostle with fantasies of a language adequate to capturing the transitory and the fugitive, one that reflects the intuitive process, pre- or non-intellectual perceptions, flashes and insights. On the one hand, therefore, Hulme argues for precision and exactness, for a poetry that can convey the 'solid', the 'physical', the 'visual' (these are slippery terms, and he often uses them crudely); on the other, he is fascinated with capturing the 'blur', the transitory, the fleeting. Language is brute and recalcitrant matter, and Hulme's analogies reflect this: sculpture, modelling, planing, carving. He discusses poetry and language analogically, but also places analogy at the centre of poetic activity: analogy is both a means of comprehending the process of writing (and the process of comprehension itself) and poetry's primary resource. Writing is hand-blistering work, a fight against the 'resistance' of the material; language is a 'Large clumsy instrument' that does 'not naturally come with meaning'. Hulme exemplifies a general Modernist tendency to process writing through metaphors of the plastic arts, implying an entire discourse of violence and force against rather ...


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