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This report is taken from PN Review 196, Volume 37 Number 2, November - December 2010.

Horizontal and Vertical Transcendence Christopher Middleton

Michel Deguy’s editorial for Po&sie 130 concerns the expulsion of poetry from public discourses dominated by current affairs and other literary modes (the ‘media world’). Not only in France does poetry not enjoy its old privileges as a contributor to society’s interior dialogue.

Possibly this marginalisation (cf. Edmond de Goncourt on the same tack, c. 1890?) is not really new. But it does seem acute, for the media demand, in this egalitarian epoch, every scrap of public attention. The voices of an externality subdue all others.

For a long time, poetry in English, possibly all over Europe, has been ‘losing ground’, for lack, itself of interiority (or, in a finer sense, ‘psychology’). Did psychoanalysis and its consequences capture domains over which, till about 1912, poetry presided for an old bougeoisie?

Now it is as if a cultural gravitational force were pulling language as such out to the surface, as if interiority, the fulness of inwardness, were sliding down a hole. And hasn’t the hole got bigger as poetry goes chasing after the externals that are (ironically?) the penetralia of most everyday life with or without egalitarian structures?

A huge shift in the valuation of language is involved while not poetry alone but public discourse mislays the interiorities special to linguistic expression; moreover, language itself tends to be marginalised now by numerals and data.

Or else – are these remarks vitiated by a lop-sided use of the term ‘poetry’ instead ...


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