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This review is taken from PN Review 27, Volume 9 Number 1, September - October 1982.

CORRECTIVES Jean-Claude Renard, Notes Sur La Poésie (Editions de Seuil) n.p.

Despite the present prominence of the critic, it is to the poet we must turn for poetics. With few exceptions, those qualified to theorise about poetry are those who write it. And the most effective poetics take the form of an apologia for one particular style of writing-usually the poet's own. The nature of the apologia can vary enormously-from the brusque practicality of Pound's Don'ts to the introspective pondering of Valéry-but they are all to an extent stratagems of defence, and usually gain in polemical edge for being so. In addition to these qualities we find, in the finest poetics, a profound reserve before the fact of poetry, and a refusal to be dogmatic; after all, the great poems have usually broken laws. Jean-Claude Renard has these qualities; he combines reticence with conviction, tentativeness with drive. His language is at times vertiginously abstract, but never impressionistic or vague. His method is dialectical, and carried out in a spirit of uncompromising scientific research. By setting up a series of oscillations between the relevant poles-the poet and his language, language and the world, the world and reality -he endeavours to plot the field covered uniquely by poetry. If Mallarmé was anxious to take back from music what properly belonged to poetry, Renard's central concern in Notes sur la Poésie is to take back from religion what belongs to poetry, and as a practising Roman Catholic to leave untouched what decidedly does not.

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