Friday, April 01, 2016

Robert Sheppard: The Necessity of Poetics 1: The Identification of Poetics

the necessity of poetics

robert sheppard

ship of fools


2011 edition

An earlier version of this text (identical in introduction) may be read here, on Pores. But here is the introduction again:

The Identification of Poetics

Despite the present prominence of the critic, it is to the poet we must turn for poetics. With few exceptions, those qualified to theorise about poetry are those who write it. And the most effective poetics take the form of an apologia for one particular style of writing – usually the poet’s own. The nature of the apologia can vary enormously – from the brusque practicality of Pound’s Don’ts to the introspective pondering of Valéry – but they are all stratagems of defence, and usually gain in polemical edge for being so. In addition to these qualities we find, in the finest poetics, a profound reserve before the fact of poetry, and a refusal to be dogmatic; after all, the great poems have usually broken laws. (Romer 1982: 63)

Thus opens Stephen Romer’s review of Jean-Claude Renard’s poetics with a matter-of-factness that perhaps does not allow for the force of resistance towards poetics (in this country anyway) and perhaps lacks a sense of the speculative nature of poetics itself, but it does acknowledge the kinds of irony and ambiguity that colour relations between poetics and poetry (and writing more generally).

I present next (in a later post and in the Pores version) a proliferation of definitions, deliberately miming poetics’ own refusal of laws and templates, a mode which I believe best captures the spirit and meaning of the enterprise, its excitements, incitements and its spirit of exploration and innovation (and its occasional excessiveness).
Read part two, the 'proliferation of definitions' referred to above, here.
Part three, on poetics as a  specific discourse, here.
Part four, some examples of poetics (and links to many more) here.
Part five, a flavour of poetics (of poetry, of fiction, of scriptwriting) here.
Part six, ‘Don’t explain’, explains why your shouldn’t explain, that poetics is not an expository discourse, but a speculative one, here.
Part seven is an abridged conclusion, and it contains the notes for all seven parts and a bibliography of works cited, here.
 (NB: It seems appropriate to begin posting this booklet on the 20th anniversary of my starting work at Edge Hill, since this work on poetics developed in my first years of teaching and researching there. April 1st was my first official day.)