The Language Poets Use

The Language Poets Use

The Language Poets Use

The Language Poets Use

Excerpt

The matter of this book first took shape in a course of intercollegiate lectures to students of English in the University of London. Presentation in print demanded the recasting of passages too obviously designed to meet the needs of oral delivery, and the alteration of divisions of the matter originally determined more by the ticking of the lecture-room clock than by any real fissure between topics. In attempting to remove some features, tolerable in a lecture, from which the reader of the printed word might well be expected to recoil, I hoped not to have to do anything which might obscure the simplicity of my original purpose, which was to draw attention to the operation and interaction, in poetry, of various forms of meaningfulness, ranging from the neglected obvious to forms whose complexity makes it difficult to find terms and methods with which to bring them within the scope of critical commentary. But I found that it is hardly possible to recast lectures into a printable form without succumbing to the urge to reconsider and rewrite, especially in passages where a reader would expect to find an argument closer than the lecture-room permits. I have tried however to keep to the principle which first determined the order in which topics were to be treated: that is, in an ascending order of difficulty of formulation. If in some places the examples chosen to illustrate theoretical points seem to be hand-picked for the purpose of special pleading, I hope this may find some justification in their fitness for the purpose of making one particular aspect of a large issue particularly clear. And since the strategy of the lectures was to burrow my way into an organic whole, it will (I hope) be found that though in the earlier stages there are passages of apparent indifference to the real structure of a problem, these will find some redress later on, when what was blandly passed off without comment recurs as a bitter brew of multiple problems interrelated.

The book begins with a rapid review of the workings in poetry of staple components of language and it attempts to suggest something of the diversity of the interaction between the corporeality of words (as systematized in poems) and the meanings they bear. The second chapter tries to dismantle the hurdle of 'poetic diction' by . . .

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