Jimmy's Reviews > The Poetics of Space

The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard
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it was amazing
bookshelves: france, male, poetic-essay, year-1950s, smallness

It's one of those great books with the rare ability to put into words everything I've always known. *




































* Wittgenstein says "About what one can not speak, one must remain silent." Of course, as a philosopher, he was right. But what is unspeakable is also exactly where poets must venture forth a primitive utterance. Not to fill it up brashly with idle talk, but to consecrate it with voices which will increase the silence. This is why phenomenology as practiced by Bachelard, though a branch of philosophy, is more akin to poetry. He whispers to you everything you've always known, intimate knowledge that we all share wordlessly, yet he increases its mystery by speaking about it in a hush of clarity that does not defile the subject matter as psychologists, philosophers, or psychoanalysts do. It makes sense then

that he uses poets and writers as the basis for his study of intimate spaces. More specifically, the poet's image, which arises purely, in a realm before thought or language, springing forth without history or context or reason. The image is Bachelard's tool for studying the essence of safe places in which (and for which) daydreaming takes place, like the house, the drawer, and the shell. The phenomenologist, like the poet, is interested entirely in the essence of a thing, which often has only weak ties to the actual physical reality of a thing. Since I also live almost entirely in the imagination,

this book had the odd effect of feeling at once familiar and new. For once, someone does not miss the whole point! Bachelard does not analyze. What he does instead is set the tongues of these various images to ringing at harmonic frequencies, then invite you in to hear the resonances. It's like going to church. There is awe here, and play, and love that comes only after intense immersion. Many of my own poems are rooted in this same seeing/hearing, especially my In the Sea, There Are a Million Things in There poems and my chapbook A Reduction (yes, shameless self promotion!), both of which start with the inextricably linked worlds of large and small as a realm for daydreaming.
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Reading Progress

December 23, 2012 – Started Reading
December 26, 2012 – Shelved
December 26, 2012 –
page 19
6.74% "At the level of the poetic image, the duality of subject and object is iridescent, shimmering, unceasingly active in its inversions."
December 26, 2012 –
page 23
8.16% "But the image has touched the depths before it stirs the surface."
December 26, 2012 –
page 33
11.7% "Non-knowing is not a form of ignorance but a difficult transcendence of knowledge."
December 26, 2012 –
page 7
2.48% "Within the being, in the being of within, an enveloping warmth welcomes being."
December 26, 2012 –
page 15
5.32% "The feel of the tiniest latch has remained in our hands."
December 26, 2012 –
page 33
11.7% ""Alas! we have to grow old to conquer youth, to free it from its fetters and live according to its original impulse." Poetry gives not so much a nostalgia for youth, which would be vulgar, as a nostalgia for the expressions of youth."
December 26, 2012 –
page 41
14.54% "Bachelin: 'it seems to me that, under the hood of the great fireplace, the old legends must have been much older then than they are today.'"
December 26, 2012 –
page 54
19.15% "If the Creator listened to poets, He would create a flying turtle that would carry off into the blue the great safeguards of earth."
December 26, 2012 –
page 68
24.11% "The housewife awakens furniture that was asleep."
December 26, 2012 –
page 71
25.18% "what a joy reading is, when we recognize the importance of these insignificant things, when we can add our own personal daydreams to the 'insignificant' recollections of the author! Then insignificance becomes the sign of extreme sensitivity to the intimate meanings that establish spiritual understanding between writer and reader."
December 26, 2012 –
page 91
32.27% "How psychology would deepen if we could know the psychology of each muscle!"
December 27, 2012 –
page 101
35.82% "Michelet: The house is a bird's very person ... There is not one of these blades of grass that, in order to make it curve and hold the curve, has not been pressed on countless times by the bird's breast, its heart, surely with difficulty in breathing, perhaps even, with palpitations."
December 27, 2012 –
page 104
36.88% "Pasternak: the instinct with the help of which, like the swallow, we construct the world--an enormous nest, an agglomerate of earth and sky, of death and life, and of two sorts of time, one we can dispose of and one that is lacking."
December 27, 2012 –
page 106
37.59% "the mollusk: one must live to build one's house, and not build one's house to live in."
December 27, 2012 –
page 119
42.2% "Thus a learned dream collects legendary hyphens."
December 28, 2012 –
page 163
57.8% "But we haven't time, in this world of ours, to love things and see them at close range, in the plentitude of their smallness. Only once in my life I saw a young lichen come into being and spread out on a wall. What youth and vigor to honor the surface!"
December 28, 2012 –
page 166
58.87% "He is an ear within an ear."
December 28, 2012 –
page 176
62.41% "the weaker the indication, the greater the significance, since it indicates an origin."
December 28, 2012 –
page 176
62.41% "Man and the World, man and his world, are at their closest, it being in the power of the poet to designate them to us in their moments of greatest proximity. Man and the world are in a community of dangers. They are dangerous for each other. All this can be heard and pre-heard in the sub-rumbling murmur of the poem."
December 28, 2012 –
page 178
63.12% "It would be quite superfluous for such images to be true. They exist."
December 28, 2012 –
page 179
63.48% "Words are clamor-filled shells."
December 28, 2012 –
page 190
67.38% "Milosz: 'Away with boundaries, those enemies of horizons! Let genuine distance appear!'"
December 30, 2012 –
page 197
69.86% "Considered vocally, therefore, this word [vast] is no longer merely dimensional. Like some soft substance, it receives the balsamic powers of infinite calm."
December 30, 2012 –
page 205
72.7% "At a little over 125 feet under the surface of the water, [Diole] discovered 'absolute depth,' depth that is beyond measuring, and would give no greater powers of dream and thought if it were doubled or even tripled. ... Diole really entered into the volume of the water. And ... we come to a point where we recognize in this space-substance, a one-dimensional space. One substance, one dimension."
December 30, 2012 –
page 205
72.7% "And we are so remote from the earth and life on earth, that this dimension of water bears the mark of limitlessness. To try and find high, low, right or left in a world that is so well unified by its substance, is thinking, not living--thinking as formerly we did in life on earth"
December 30, 2012 –
page 220
78.01% "When we really live a poetic image, we learn to know, in one of its tiny fibres, a becoming of being that is an awareness of the being's inner disturbance."
December 30, 2012 –
page 222
78.72% "I only know how to work with a philosophy of detail."
December 30, 2012 –
page 223
79.08% "If such a document had its source in some remote mythology, we should find it more readily acceptable. But why not take the poet's verse as a small element of spontaneous mythology?"
December 30, 2012 –
page 230
81.56% "Isn't the exterior an old intimacy lost in the shadow of memory?"
December 30, 2012 –
page 236
83.69% "When we are at an age to imagine, we cannot say how or why we imagine. Then, when we could say how we imagine, we cease to imagine."
December 30, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-10 of 10 (10 new)

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message 1: by Joseph (new) - added it

Joseph Reading this like 2 books from now!


Jimmy I'm excited for you, Youself. This book may win my award for "most quotable book ever", maybe even surpassing Man Without Qualities and Mrs. Dalloway in that department, which is truly impressive.


message 3: by Jessica (last edited Dec 31, 2012 07:30AM) (new)

Jessica It's been so long since I read this book...over 30 yrs if I count. Maybe time for a reread.
(I do remember loving it but not much else. would probably speak to me differently now too)


message 4: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Ok, Jimmy, you've convinced me to order a copy :)


Jimmy Jessica: I read bits and pieces of it before as well, but I never read it from cover to cover, and it didn't speak to me as much as it did this time.

Barbara: the Bachelard book or the Jimmy Lo book? ;)


Kris Beautiful, perfect review, Jimmy -- you've captured the heart of why I love this book.


message 7: by Barbara (new)

Barbara I already read the marvelous Jimmy Lo book! I hope the Bachelard book is as good.


Jimmy Yes I know, I was kidding. You've already fallen for my self promotion before hook line and sinker ;)

Kris: thanks! it was an enriching read.


message 9: by Barbara (new)

Barbara You've steered me to a lot of good books in the past, so it's only fair that I should help you promote yours! Happy New Year!


message 10: by Mala (new)

Mala @ Jimmy: Where are you these days & why is there a big empty white space before the review?
Anyway, lovely review as usual.


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