The poetic as regenerative force
I was struck by the following sentence from A Lover’s Discourse, which I think may have something to say about poetic thinking, or at least poetic language:
I continue to fool myself as to the effects of language: I do not know that the word “suffering” expresses no suffering and that consequently, to use it is not only to communicate nothing but even, and immediately, to annoy, to irritate (not to mention the absurdity). (p. 98)
The word “suffering” expresses no suffering. To be sure, the word “suffering” was intended to convey suffering, but it seems that through continual and quotidian use its power to evoke suffering has been eroded, to the point that today it operates on a purely symbolic level detached from the affective state it purports to describe. I convey information by saying “I am suffering”, but I don’t in fact tell you anything about what it’s like to be me suffering. Worse, Barthes says, I’ve probably annoyed you, and also (adding insult to injury) made a fool of myself!
How, then, can we express suffering? It would appear that we need to continually reinvent and renew our language in order to counteract the ossifying effects of conventional usage and return “to the things themselves”. We need new words, new grammatical structures, and new figures of speech. We need new metres, new inflections and new diction. In short, we need the poetic.