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“this is not a detached dissertation but an exploration of my origins, an indirect attempt at self-definition” —Octavio Paz

The World in the Earth: A Response to “The Taste of Silence”

This response is a bit late in coming. It took me quite a while to figure out just what it is that I disagreed with about the essay in question, and for a while I gave up on actually putting it in readable, coherent form; but given some time, I think I see now more clearly what it is I take umbrage with. I was initially simply rooting for the underdog, because I was appalled that something I find myself so concerned with (the tenets of what the author calls ‘poetry of world’) should be implicitly linked with imperialism, racism, and other assorted evils. But I began rereading Heaney’s Seeing Things for pleasure after having my interest piqued by the article, and Heaney became my guide back to an underlying disagreement. Anyway, I ought not preface my thoughts on the article with themselves, so off you go. I tried to include the relevant quotes within, so one need not have read the article before reading this, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to have done so.

Adam Kirsch has an essay in a recent issue of Poetry magazine that uses Heidegger’s essay “The Origin of the Work of Art” to establish a dichotomy of poetry, that “of the earth” and that “of the world.” I admit at the start that my understanding of Heidegger is limited to the discussions of his work I’ve read by Rorty and Derrida, and I am ill-equipped to make judgments about Kirsch’s interpretation of him. My problem, however, is with the judgment Kirsch makes by employing Heidegger’s distinction in the present tense. By claiming that only poetry “of the earth” is “our poetry,” and that we have turned away from poetry “of the world” because of its seeming impossibility, Kirsch (not-so-)subtly imbricates “poetry of the world,” now or whenever, between Naziism and Imperialism— a move I would find offensive did I not first find it misled and based on a contradiction of which Kirsch’s essay seems marginally aware. “And that [contradiction, Kirsch] reveals in spite of himself, can have sinister implications.”
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Filed under: Heaney, Heidegger, Kirsch, Poetry

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