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This article is taken from PN Review 7, Volume 5 Number 3, April - June 1979.

Matter for Thought:The New Poetries David Trotter

THIS ESSAY offers a means of approach to the hidden side of contemporary English poetry, to those modes of writing which are ignored by or keep their distance from the mainstream periodicals and publishing houses. It assumes that we need to be able to distinguish between various literary modes at the level of practice: in terms of their use of those linguistic resources which allow us to identify as a unity and so to interpret extended passages of writing. (1)

We recognize the unity of a spoken or written statement partly by the grammatical structure of clause and sentence, but more importantly by its semantic integrity; by cohesive relations established between an element in the text and some other element which is crucial to the interpretation of it. This is particularly true of passages containing more than one sentence, because here-the sentence being the highest unit of grammatical structure-semantic ties are the only source of unity. To take a trivial example from normal discourse: 'You see the paper over there? Pass it to me, please.' The texture of this statement (its property of 'being a text') is guaranteed by two types of cohesive relation: between elements in the text; between text and context. `It' in the second sentence refers back to 'the paper over there' in the first, and cohesion is thus effected by the presence of a referring item (it) and the item referred to. The former derives its meaning from the latter, and the presupposition ...


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