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Poetic Thinking 2016 | January 23, 2020

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Small Acts of Poetic Thinking

Small Acts of Poetic Thinking
Andrew McLeod

Our discussions in this class have focused on work that has been given a distinguished position in society and in our lives by virtue of the epithet ‘art’ (I mean this only in a descriptive sense—that we do, in fact, treat these works differently than most of the creations we encounter in everyday life). While this is hardly surprising, I suspect many of us also believe that Poetic Thinking can be encountered in the more routine and mundane aspects of our lives—and, more to the point, that it must be possible to be intentional about incorporating Poetic Thinking into our everyday lives in these smaller ways.

Correspondingly, I’ve been pondering what such activity might look like. The best example I’ve been able to produce is our constant potential to invent words. I don’t mean to suggest that Poetic Thinking provides us with an excuse for making our ideas incomprehensible to others, but rather that it often proves possible to construct neologisms that convey their meaning in a relatively clear way. For instance, we might use the word ‘greety’ to describe someone who eagerly greets all newcomers to a conversation, or ‘malphoria’ to describe someone whose bearing is bleak or gloomy. Surely there are better (and more adventurous) examples, but I’m having a hard time thinking of them in the absence of a notion that I’m finding it difficult to convey. But where else might we encounter—or even try to cultivate—such small acts of Poetic Thinking (especially once this class has concluded)?


  1. Pensiero Liquido

    Thanks for your post Andrew.
    True, as we hinted in our discussion poetic thinking does not necessarily be an exclusive characteristic of “art”.

    Creating new words could be an example, although I don’t know how often does it happen.
    (This might occur more frequently in German…)

    I am naturally drawn to think at even more mundane and small acts of poetic thinking.
    For example, I collect quotes of the texts I read. I copy them and attach them everywhere…
    I think with them.
    Afterwards, I produce my own thoughts, to which I give different forms: pictures, words, collages, whatever.
    Is it thinking? Certainly. It is creative in a way, without high aspirations, but maybe as a self-fashioning tool.

    What about Arendt’s Denktagebuch?
    Of course we are at a different level, but this does not exclude our little attempts to be instances of poetic thinking.

    And then we produce ourselves, over and over.
    Inspired by Montaigne, I think that our rumination on the most varied topics are all creative ways in which we operate a sort of self-fashioning activity. Is that poetic thinking?
    Thinking without banisters?
    If so, then the result of poetic thinking, would be our ephemeral selves, rather than an object or an “art object”.

  2. I like this prompt a lot, Andrew. I hadn’t thought of it, but I’m not surprised you thought of neologisms as one way of using poetic thinking in a small way.

    Silvia, I enjoy your follow-up: it makes me think of the small acts of self-fashioning I perform on a day-to-day basis, and don’t necessarily seek any other end to them.

    I’m reminded again of Michel De Certeau’s reflections on reading, in “The Practice of Everyday Life” (I believe I’ve quoted him in a much earlier post). He zeroes in on all the little choices we make as our eyes skid across the page–we face a text before us that tells us what to do (read from left to right, go in numerical order), and yet we have complete control over how quickly we stay on one sentence and how long on another, where the words take us in our imaginations, etc. Could small “acts of rebellion” like reading a book out of order be poetic? Or skipping pages, starting at the end, etc? If so, when does it slide from poetic thinking to the mundane act of skimming for your orals exam? Maybe it’s another case of reframing; thinking in terms of orientation…

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