Pantoum – Poetry and loss

roses-florists weekly
(trying to explain Maurice Blanchot to myself, twice!)

In the everyday use of poetry, words carry ideas.
The word flower means flower, a real flower in the real world
(or a rose or whatever’s in your hand while waving goodbye).
You can read poetry in this way but it’s more than this.

If the word flower means flower (a real flower in the real world),
in poetry flower doesn’t just mean flower, it can mean many things.
You can read poetry in this way but it’s more than this:
the word is independent from what it signifies.

In poetry flower doesn’t just mean flower, it means many things:
an independence which is passed over in the everyday.
A word independent from what it signifies —
this is the negativity at the heart of language.

An independence, which is passed over everyday,
negates the physical reality of the thing —
this is the negativity at the heart of language.
But the absence of the thing is made good by the presence of the idea that

………………………………………………negates the physical reality of the thing.
What the everyday use of poetry steps over, to make use of, the idea
that the absence of the thing is made good by the presence of the idea.
Poetry is fascinated by the absence of the thing annihilated.

What the everyday use of poetry steps over to make use of the idea
is a double negation: both of the thing and the idea.
Poetry is fascinated by the absence of the thing annihilated.
It is in this (empty) space that poetry becomes possible.

It’s a double negation: both of the thing and the idea
in the everyday use of poetry. Words carry ideas,
words take on a strange, mysterious reality of their own
(or a rose or whatever’s to hand while waving goodbye).



Image: The Weekly Florists’ Review, November 3, 1910, p. 17. c/- The Internet Archive. A pantoum is a poetic form which repeats two lines from one stanza in the following one. Maurice Blanchot (1907-2003) was a French literary critic and philosopher. This piece was freely adapted from here.

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