Holy cow, Chris, what a terrifically interesting post! One of those to
read more than once, that's for sure. More later, if I can get out
from under these mid-terms. I *do* think Alison's notion of poetry
as a kind of parole to "something else's" langue is richer in
implication than you seem to take it.
Meaning would *always* be "contained" in poems if one assumes
notion of meaning, or even a later New Critical one; meaning would
be "contained" in poems if one assumes a structuralist notion of
the sense of language being a system of differences with no
Maybe both those senses are unsatisfactory [KJ]
Yes. That's pretty much akin to the container v representation
I think. If that's not too reductive. And it's the fact of their being
analogies (as with _all_ analogies) that makes them partial and
meaning is constructed via complex negotiations of social and
Yes. And the social-construction-of-meaning view moves meaning
language, at least in any containerised sense. Which begs the
where *truth* or *reality*, meaning's gold standard for
theories, actually is. Peirce (coming out of pseudo Scotus) would
put it in
the world. The other approach is to make it entirely the object of
consensus, there being no there there, as it were. How to straddle
Maybe [...] it *is*, actually, more interesting to think of a poem's
relationship to meaning in the sense of "holding back or
Yes again, to obstructing.
And I'd distinguish between three sorts (unless I think of some
First there's the pitting of the (comparatively) fixed and 'closed' text
against a changing language and a dynamic social understanding.
version of what I'd suggested earlier to Alison, that the 'openness'
poetry requires moving _outside_ the text. Fish as what is caught
valuable or interesting, which will alter over time.
Obstruction makes things tricky for the fish. Or the reader (not just
Stanley necessarily). Chomping through a boneless chunk of flesh
less interesting than extracting the bones as one goes. The risk of
errant bone is important. Choking is good for you, provided it
happen. Just as the possibility of an unremoved, fatally poisonous
presumably adds ontological piquancy to the flavour of puffer fish.
down or disrupting the ordinary acts of eating, reading or saying is
feature of this sort of obstruction. Trust in oneself, the chef, the
the language or the reader (and the risk of being let down) is
Where poetry isn't declarative (describing a state of affairs, as in
narrative) or constative (representing a state of affairs, as in drama),
where it's most distinctive, it's performative, I believe. Do writer and
reader face one another across the divide (or the bridge) of the text
carrying out acts which are (to use JL Austin's terms) equivalently
*illocutionary* (trusting, loving, hating, promising, insisting and so
forth) or *perlocutionary* (creating the presence of something
according to a proairetic encoded in the work? The terms are
this feels to me broadly correct: poetry as, in effect, sequences of
instructions which lead the practitioner into impossible states.
Stein rather precisely said that 'paragraphs are emotional _not
express an emotion_ but because they register _or limit_ an
(_emphasis_ mine) and gave an example - 'A dog which you have
before has sighed' - of something visibly like what I mean by
encoded into a sentence. She also spoke of how it used to be
say, 'Ah moon' and the moon was there. Which is a good example
of what I
mean by 'perlocutionary'.
And, thirdly, there's obstruction not as a kind of guidance by the
limiting or delimiting in Stein's sense, but as *unreadability*,
to being read at all, so that what's important, what's being
either the saying or _in_ the saying but is the result of the
the saying (and the reading) and is (apophatically) what _isn't_
And that, I think, is where I disagree with Alison's sense of poetry
*parole* to something else's *langue*, which still seems to me a
within a view of poetry as symbolic code, as though a Philippe
(to change the artform) were a ludic resistance to over-earnest
What I have in mind is that interesting territory where language
Which may be a good place to stop.