Monday, September 10, 2012

Poetry and Politics, Strophes and Institutions

Let's say, following Kant, that intuition is the way things are given to us in experience, perhaps the fact that things are given immediately to us, or that we know some things immediately. And let's then call institution the way people are captivated by experience, the act of capturing them immediately, or the way some people have power immediately. And since remarks are the compositional atoms of philosophy, through which intuitions are brought to our notice through marks on the page, i.e., "philosophy is the art of writing concepts down", we can think of a strophe as the means by which the poet brings institutions to presence.

Poetry is the art of writing emotions down. The purpose of this is to "turn, bend, twist" experience, and thus to notice the grip of institutions on experience. Institutions are the way we are captured before we even begin to feel and act. Poetry cannot liberate us as such (only a revolutionary politics can do that, if anything can), but it can make the emotion present to us. It can extricate the feeling from the grip of the emotion that the institution imposes on us.

When Lisa Robertson talks about "the prosody of the citizen", I imagine this versification of institutional prose is what she has in mind.

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