On Poetics

The French philosopher Gaston Bachelard once wrote an analysis of what he called the poetics of space. The inside of a house, he said, acquires a sense of intimacy, secrecy, security, real or imagined, because of the experiences that come to seem appropriate for it. The objective space of a house—its corners, corridors, cellar, rooms—is far less important than what poetically it is endowed with, which is usually a quality with an imaginative or figurative value we can name and feel: this a house may be haunted, or homelike, or prisonlike…The same process occurs when we deal with time. Much of what we associate with or even now about such periods as “long ago” or “the beginning” or “at the end of time” is poetic…

— Edward Said, “Orientalism”

By the same rule, there would be poetics of the body: gender, ethnicity, ability, sexuality, kinship, therianthropy; under an ability to see light, there would be poetics of color, and poetics of a specific body part such as an eye. There can be poetics of relationships, kinships too, kithships (maybe if that’s a word), acquaintances and romances.

The poetics of space can be national, architectural, or directional. The directional can be south, or left, with levity and gravity, or dorsal and ventral. With the latter, and in other cases, poetics of space can overlap with poetics of the body.

There are poetics of words and language, poetics of concepts and notions, poetics of mathematics.

But if I say that there are poetics of category…that’s just too meta, gone too far! (Technically, it had already gone that way in the poetics of concepts and notions.)

I wonder what makes the poetics incomplete as a concept that it must be anchored or expressed in ritual, or must be reflected back somehow by the world for the poetic to be complete and validated? On the other side of it, what poetics makes a ritual empty?

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