Monday, October 18, 2004

from "Poetry and Abstract Thought" by Paul Valery

" . . . Poetry is an art of language. But language is a practical creation. It may be observed that in all communication between men, certainty comes only from practical acts and from the verification which practical acts give us. I ask you for a light. You give me a light: you have understood me.

But in asking me for a light, you were able to speak those few unimportant words with a certain intonation, a certain tone of voice, a certain inflection, a certain languor or briskness perceptible to me. I have understood your words, since without even thinking I handed you what you asked for--a light. But the matter does not end there. The strange thing: the sound and as it were the features of your little sentence come back to me, echo within me, as though they were pleased to be there, I, too, like to hear myself repeat this little phrase, which has almost lost its meaning, which has stopped being of use, and which can go on living, though with quite another life. It has acquired value; and has acquired it at the expense of its finite significance. It has created the need to be heard again . . . Here we are on the very threshold of the poetic state. This tiny experience will help us to the discovery of more than one truth."

--Paul Valery, Oxford University, 1939


Dustin said...

I love that! "The matter does not end there...."

Oliver de la Paz said...

Me too! I've been trying to explain WHY POETRY to my students for years and . . . poof . . . here's the reason. :-D