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Andrew Mitchell on Poetry and Thinking in Heidegger

Andrew J. Mitchell (Ph.D., Philosophy) works in the fields of 19th and 20th century German Philosophy and the Philosophy of Literature, with emphases in the Philosophy of Nature (German Romanticism, American Transcendentalism), Critical Theory, and the History of Philosophy (ancient and modern). His research addresses questions of meaning, mediation, and materiality in philosophy and literature. […]

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This is KZSU Stanford.
Welcome to entitled opinions.
My name is Robert Harrison.
We're coming to you from the Stanford campus.
I don't know.
You know, there are some days that I'm not in the mood for that theme song.
Today is one of them.
I did a show on music last week.
And I know that that theme song makes my guests alert.
It's a signal that this is no NPR broadcast that we allow it to get erectile through that music.
But I feel like something a little more mellow today like this.
You all recognize that red house Jimmy Hendrix.
But what you might not know is that that is not the American version.
Or at least it's not the version of the song that was released on the American,
are you experienced.
That's the 1967 UK release.
It has a different take of the song, believe it or not.
It has one of Jimmy Hendrix's finest guitar solos in my view.
With my guests last week, Stephen Hinton, the musicologist,
he did not disagree with me when I said that it were Mozart to be born in the 20th century.
He might well have taken the form of Jimmy Hendrix.
A force of nature, volcanic, and I'm not going to fade out this song until you hear the solo.
And then we talk about Heidegger.
Here comes the solo you can only hear on entitled "Pindians."
I mean I like Schwanberg in a way.
I have a few announcements to make before we start.
First of all, tomorrow, Wednesday, the 13th of June,
we're going to have an entitled "Pindians Bananza Three Hours" from 2-5pm,
where I'm going to be playing part 2 of three different shows.
I promise that they were going to air sometime later, and indeed tomorrow is the day.
So we're going to have part 2 of the show on Hana Arendt with Karen Feldman,
part 2 of the show on Freud with Kadditini Duvazi, and part 3 of last week's show with Stephen Hinton on 20th century music.
So please tune in tomorrow from tomorrow to-to-five, correct.
And then this is our penultimate show today.
Our last show for the season will be airing next week, and on that occasion I am going to just reflect on some of the
topics that have been touched on in the last 10 weeks on entitled "Pindians" and give you kind of an entitled "Pindians Redux" on those shows,
and try to put things in a little bit of focus before we go on a summer break for sure.
We're going to be back with you sometime next year.
So, I have with me in the studio today Andrew Mitchell.
Now his name might be familiar to the long-term listeners of entitled "Pindians" from last year when he and I had a conversation about Martin Heidegger back in the fall of last year,
and of all the shows I did, that's one of the ones that had the most resonance, at least among those of you who made your voices heard to me personally by either writing emails,
directly to me, or sending comments to our webpage.
And I'm told that among the undergraduate series Stanford, for some reason that Heidegger show is one of the big hits.
And it's my distinct pleasure to welcome Andrew Mitchell back to entitled "Pindians", especially because very sadly for us here at Stanford, he has accepted a job at Emory University next year,
a highly coveted job in continental philosophy. So, this is the last chance we're going to have to have him on air for a little bit.
And I have to say that it's not because of any fault of our own administration that we weren't able to keep him.
Our dean, acting dean, I know is a big fan of Andrew Mitchell's, but as often happens, you know, we send our own away for a while,
and then we pay like two or three times the amount to get them back in a few years, so I'm hoping that Andrew will indeed be joining us in a few years.
So, Andrew, welcome to the program again.
Thanks Robert, it's a joy and an honor to be back again.
And I would like, I know that you would also like to dedicate our show to Colonel Keith Essen.
Colonel Essen.
Colonel Keith Essen wrote us last year out of the blue to our webpage, and the first communication we receive from him reads as follows,
"You need to know that your show has been a distinct pleasure.
Specifically, I thoroughly enjoyed the show on Heidegger. I have listened to this several times already.
And today's feast on Epicurean thought was sheer delight.
I guess he was writing after the show on Epicureus with Andrea Didengail there.
I am learning something with each encounter, and indeed I do feel part of the conversation."
And then he goes on, "Is there any way I can procure lectures by Andrew Mitchell on Heidegger?
I don't care how much they cost. His commentary was stunning, and frankly would love to hear more."
Heidegger is so impenetrable, yet fascinating.
Yet the discourse was so compelling, I would really like to hear more on this topic,
for once it seemed within reach, would love to send my combined federal campaign donation to you.
Do you have a code?"
There you go, Andrew.
It's our man.
That's very kind.
So I don't have no lectures, by the way, so I couldn't satisfy that.
Yes, I think I indicate as much, but we are going to do a second show with you as he requested.
He also recently communicated to me after listening to the HANA aren't shows.
And I would read from them because they're very fascinating reflections on evil, thoughtlessness, bureaucracy, and so forth.
But I thought that I would say that for next week in my season wrap-up, as it were,
and read from some of those communications and relation to some reflections on the HANA aren't shows that I did with Karen Feldman.
So, Andrew, last year we had a rather broad-ranging discussion about Heidegger in general.
Today, we want to focus a little bit more narrowly on the role that poetry plays in his thinking,
and especially the relationship between poetry and thought, as Heidegger conceived it.
I think it's fair to say that Heidegger had been intensely engaged with poetry from the early on in his career,
and certainly, as early as being in time, there are stories that have never been quite dispelled or disproven that he had written part two of being in time by 1926,
but that when he learned that Reina Rilke had died in that year, he presumably destroyed part two of being in time.
Whether that is true or not, I've never been able to find out, but I know that our friend Tom Sheehan, who is very rigorous on all these things.
I haven't heard those stories, by the way, that's impressive. He does like Rilke, as you know, and admire him, and in basic problems with phenomenology in 1927,
he already quoted a page of his notebooks of multi-lory-brig to illustrate a point of language revealing the world.
Now, is it fair to say that poetry takes on increasing importance in Heidegger?
The more he starts thinking about the question of the meaning of being, which then becomes the question of the truth of being, and then the clearing of being, and so forth,
such that the later Heidegger is actually much more engaged in a dialogue with poetry than he was earlier in his career.
Right. I think this follows from his initial analysis of Dazain as not being identical to the human, as previously defined.
The human, as defined by the tradition of philosophy, is the Zoan Logon Echon, the animal having reason or logos or language, as the Greek word is very oblit translated.
And what Heidegger wants to break with in his thinking is this notion of the human being someone who would possess language, that the human would have an interior within which language would be housed, and through which language would be an expression that crossed the boundary of an interior into an exterior, by which it would more or less adequately reflect that inner intention.
He wants to break with all of this because he doesn't think that the human is such an encapsulated entity, but rather as being in time already claims, a being in the world.
And as a being in the world, language is no longer its possession.
So throughout the later work you find numerous claims to the effect that the human is not the master of language.
The human is not even the one who speaks, but rather language speaks through the human in some sense.
So language is not a possession in the sense of a property that belongs to design.
So how does Heidegger try to reconceive of this most fundamental of concepts in Western philosophy, namely logos?
Right, it's fundamental in that it's been the ground of the determination of what counts as human.
What Heidegger attempts in the later thinking of language is to break with a second conception of language, that which is proffered by technology and information science for him.
That language would be nothing more than a tool of communication and that this communication would be an attempt to speak or write as efficiently as possible without any ambiguity as unambiguously or unibically as possible.
And he finds that to be the threat that language faces today.
Coming from technology in the sciences and perhaps also journalism.
Journalism, especially when he writes about Ernst Junger, he specifically attacks his way of writing as being journalistic because the journalistic prose approach to the world he says only describes, but the manner in which it describes is it describes present objects that would be complete,
that would be present at hand to use the earlier terminology, and in so doing participates in the construction of a world that would be present at hand.
So there's this strange mediating force of language whereby how we speak creates a world in some sense and the descriptive journalistic prose creates a world of enclosed objects and it's precisely against that world that Heidegger tries to think.
When I was a graduate student, I shared in this very fashionable contempt for journalism or when you wanted to put a scholar down, you say, well, he's just journalistic as opposed to being a rigorous deep thinker.
I've since then come to acquire a much deeper appreciation for journalism as a genre for the clarity, actuality, and where when we live in a world where journalism fails to be a part of the world,
journalism fails to do its job properly with exactly that kind of factually based precision information.
When you just want to know the facts, you want those journalists to use language in the most efficient, technically proficient way possible, of course within that genre.
Now I understand that that is not proper to philosophy. So the question now is did Heidegger believe that Western philosophy, metaphysics, another term for, was somehow also striving towards finding a unique language where all ambiguity would be expunged from the medium of communication?
We know in the age of reason, for example, with Descartes and so forth, there were these grand dreams of finding a universal language that would be something on the order of a symbolic logic or mathematics and so forth.
So in traditional Western metaphysics is the natural ambiguity of human language, something that was objectionable.
And Heidegger thinks so, and this is a shift in his thinking from being in time to the later work. In being in time, he writes about the common person, the "they", the "dasman", as speaking ambiguously.
And so it's used as a disparaging term that they sort of chatter is one of the terms he uses and they're ambiguous, they don't know what they're talking about, and they're curious.
And they're curious as well, exactly. And in the later work, he starts to think ambiguity in a more positive manner. In fact, when he writes of the poet Georg Truckle, he talks about poetic language as not being ambiguous, but as being ambiguously ambiguous.
And if I could just clarify what he means there, he doesn't want to think ambiguity as an indifference between two fully present meanings, that a word could mean one thing, or it could mean the other.
But in either case, it would mean "holy one" or the other. He wants what he calls this ambiguous ambiguity whereby the language itself is not defined by meanings that would be wholly present in some sense.
And this is really the crux of his thinking of poetry. It's an attempt to describe or not describe, to present a language that is not frozen in this crystalline encapsulated form, but is relationally defined, is open to this relationality and somehow engages with it.
So for the poet, language is not a possession. And neither are the meanings of words in poetry ambiguous in the traditional sense. Would you say that a word like indeterminate would be a better rendition of what he calls ambiguous ambiguity?
Yes, I could see indeterminacy as being what is at stake here, precisely when he brings this discussion of poetry into an account of decision. He's not interested in necessarily deciding anything as so much as bringing us to the point where a decision would be possible.
And so if we can hear that in indeterminacy, and I know that that's a rather indeterminate or vague way to speak about this, then I think indeterminacy would be a fitting term.
But if it means a lack of determination, then that's not the case.
I agree with that, yeah. And of course, his thinking about poetry or the way in which poetry uses language, if we can even use that term, is analogous to the way the sculptor uses stone, or
the temple builder uses marble and so forth.
Yeah, that's a fantastic analogy, actually, when he begins the one of his truckle readings, and all of his work on poetry, apart from the Hultaling work, happens after the war.
So the Hultaling interpretations are largely from...
...the Hultaling being a German poet of the 19th century. Yeah, the greatest. From 1933 to '34, through to 1944, basically.
So not just any particular years in German history, but some key years in German history, that's where Hultaling takes prominence.
But after the war, he turns to these other poets, and one of them is "Truckle," and at the opening of the...
Austrian poet who was also a pharmacist, he's considered a leading figure of expressionism, something which of course had a good hate, for reasons noted.
And he writes these amazing, colorful, opiated poems full of leaves, autumn colors, decay, dead sisters, things like this.
They're some of the greatest poems written, I would say, when he's one of the greatest poets who ultimately commit suicide after the young age of 23, '24.
He was supported by Wittgenstein for a while, by Rilke, they all sent money into further his cause.
He served in the first world war, he was caring for soldiers who had been wounded, there were no means to help them with their pain.
He was exposed to this rather gory situation, and sometimes thereafter killed himself.
I think before the war was over.
14, 17, or I don't know, we'll have to ask my brother, we talked about "Truckle" on that show on 1910.
But as I started the one of the "Truckle" readings, he talks about the place of the poem, and it's this notion of place that in a sense informs much of his consideration of poetry.
I'm not sure if you're referring to Heidegger.
Before, we want to talk about "Truckle" more in depth, but just to frame a little bit, when we're talking about the way the poet uses language, being analogous to the way the sculptor uses stones or bronze and so forth,
that one of Heidegger's thesis, in his famous essay on the origin of the work of art, in which he makes it quite clear that he's not proposing an aesthetics, but nevertheless he's thinking about what the work of art is and how it's different from other works.
He says that the art work does not exhaust its material in its production.
The poet does not exhaust language in his use of language anymore than the sculptor exhaust stone, but on the contrary, stone becomes all the more stone-like when it becomes art.
And language becomes all the more not indeterminate or ambiguously ambiguous, but it shines in its essence as something that finally is irreducible.
It's materialized in a way, just as the stone, the earth andness of the stone shows forth in the sculpture, so too in language for Heidegger does some of the materiality of language come to the fore in poetry.
He doesn't have as you're aware much of a theory of poetry. There's no book on the essence of poetry or anything like this written by him, and he was scornful of all literary criticism, etc.
But nonetheless, there are references in his work that allow us to approach some idea of what a theory of poetry for lack of a better term would be.
Let's throw out that term. I cannot stand theories in poetry.
Good. So some thinking of poetry. Perfect. That's exactly what it is. What he wants to think is the way in which poems allow an unknown to appear in the very language itself.
That in a sense is the brunt of his work in poet thinking poetry. He says in one of his post-war, holding interpretations, that the poet takes the measure from the unknown.
So the poet is first exposed to this unknown, exposed to something that lies beyond them, something unknowable per se, and rather than attempt to possess that, they somehow, these poets, use that unknown to open up their language, to keep their language from encompassing or grasping or encapsulating its matter or its theme in some sense.
And it's precisely this opened or exposed language that Heidegger sees as poetic speech and which he gives us a few clues towards understanding in these poetic works, he writes.
I can understand that there's a certain kind of poetry, a trackal, for example, is the prime instance that comes to my mind where the poems are profoundly embedded in some unknowability.
It's a poetry of enigma, it's a poetry of inscrutability. When it's very hard to know what trackal is speaking about in those lyrics of his, I'm wondering, and I know that Heidegger commits himself to the thesis that all
genuine, authentic, great poetry, likewise, brings the unknown into presence, through language, without translating it into terms of knowability.
So he has no interest in what some people, the so-called apologists for poetry that surround us sometimes, that say that, "Oh, poetry is another form of knowledge, and even more deeper form of knowledge."
And that poetry knows the world in a way philosophy cannot know the world. It's not a question of knowledge for Heidegger, is it?
No, not in terms of knowledge as a possession, that's for sure. It's for him more about learning how to dwell in the world strangely enough.
He thinks that through an encounter with language in this manner, and I know that we haven't gone into the details of what this manner of language would be, and there is a few points at least that we could consider, that through an exposure to this sort of language, we first become mortals,
his term. He moves away from the language of Dazain at this period to emphasize mortality, and so he makes a connection between that approach to language, where it's not a possession, and our mortality, where we never have our death.
And so through an encounter with poetry, we learn better how to dwell mortally, I think you could say.
And I like the way you said that we cannot have our death, because some of our listeners might think that to become mortal means to learn how to live as someone who has a finite span of existence.
And I believe that's exactly what you don't mean by mortal.
The death isn't something that bounds life at the outside edges of it, but rather is permeated through and through.
And so our very present living condition is itself already inhabited by death, by that absence of death, or by our not having of it.
Right. So whatever this is, we can give different words to a death, or the not having of some ultimate selfhood, that one of Heidegger's favorite words for later on is withdrawal.
Something is constantly withdrawing itself from our grasp, our knowing grasp, as well as our existential grasp.
And it's this recessive motion with withdrawal of being that poetry registers, does poetry reveal?
That's absolutely the case.
That Heidegger wants to think a world apart from the opposition of presence and absence.
And one of the ways he presents that thought is through this location of withdrawal, that things are given.
Things are given into the world.
And in that giving, they remain open to relations with other things in a world.
That's in a sense what to be in a world means.
And so in order to approach that relationality of the world, the poet uses a language that is itself relationally defined, I suppose you could say.
And that's what he is attempting to think in this idea of the poet using the unknown as the measure for their words.
The only poetic trope, if you could, if I can use that word, that he employs in this thinking of poetry is rhythm.
That's something that he discusses in the "truckal poems."
He thinks that this withdrawal, in a sense, organizes the poets' various poems by rippling through them in some way.
And the way that that ripple or that wave is his language, the way that wave registers in the poem is through the rhythm of it, which is another one of these material conditions of the poem, that poetic language brings to the fore.
He writes a later essay that's somewhat little known, I would say, on Rambo in 1972, Rambo Vivant, it's called.
And there he emphasizes, again, this rhythm, the importance of rhythm, as something that carries us, something that holds us buoyant in the world.
And it is precisely the poet who hears, listens to, or wants to hear, that rhythm of withdrawal and enters it into their poetic speech.
Very well said, I have to say, that clarifies a lot for me, if clarity is what we're having to be careful.
You said that poetic language modalizes us in a very special way, in a way that other engagements with language does not.
You also said that Heidegger had no grand theory of poetry as such, that he had particular score.
You said that he had scorn for literary criticism.
I mean, that might be putting it a little strongly.
He's never claimed that he himself was making a contribution to literary criticism when he decided to think along with Hoden or Rilke or Trackel.
Well, he came. He thinks that literary critics are all treating poems as goods at their disposal to further their jobs, and that it becomes part of culture and part of a culture industry.
Well, if that cultural industry didn't exist, I wouldn't have a job. So I'm not going to be as harsh as he is.
But, you know, literary analysis, I can appreciate, I mean, I'm liberal enough, you know, live and let live.
Let Heidegger do his thing, you know, let literary critics do their thing, and they may never be able to meet.
There probably is no bridge between the philological approach to Hoden's corpus, and Heidegger's thinking about Hoden's corpus, and I know that Hoden's scholars just have a naphim.
I mean, Heidegger is an ethema to them, because he thinks that it's a complete distortion of everything that Hoden was up to and what he was intending.
But that's not a polemic we want to get involved with here.
What I want to bring the conversation back to is whether indeed, as putting it a bit too strongly to say that Heidegger did not commit himself to an idea of what the vocation of poetry is ultimately.
Because I think that he actually, in certain of his writings, does seem to commit himself to a thesis or a thesis statement about the vocation of poetry.
I don't like this.
And if I can refer to his commentary on Hoden again where he has his ponderous sort of meditation on a verse of Hoden's full of merit, yet poetically,
yet poetically dwells man on this earth.
Now, this is very interesting, first because it seems to collapse man and the poet in order to say that the poet is not just some exceptional individual who engages in the writing of poetry,
but that there's something in human nature which is fundamentally poetical.
Are you reading from the essay, poetically dwells man?
Yeah, and Hoden and the essence of poetry is the essay.
And this idea, the full of merit, yet Hodinger says that this yet signifies that whatever we as human beings may earn by our own merit,
the foundation of existence is not a question of merit, but rather is of the order of the gift.
And that exists, here let me quote Hodinger, "Existence is poetical in its fundamental aspect, which means it is not a recompense but a gift."
Would you agree with me that for Hodinger, what gives this gift is an ultimate mystery, is associated with this unknown that you were talking about earlier?
And, you know, in later Heidegger, he speaks about the "S-Gift," which means literally there is there, but literally it gives.
Whereas it is left in the neutral, in the determinant, neutral and determinant, yeah, that there's no substantial grammatical subject of the actions.
It is raining, there's not something there that is raining, it happens to be raining.
So at the same point he will make about thinking as well, about thinking, yeah, that it's a reception of this in some sense.
So if the poetical nature of man's dwelling is of the order of a gift and not of recompense, then I think Hodinger will not say that for Hodinger this mystery is associated with the gods in Hodinger's corpus.
And therefore, Hodinger, I'll just quote one more sentence and then ask you to respond to this, that from Hodinger that to dwell poetically means to stand in the presence of the gods and to be involved in the proximity of the essence of things.
That's a kind of statement that colleagues of mine, you know, will just cringe when they hear it.
So he goes on to say that the poet is the one who traffics between mortals and divinities or is situated some place between them and he's the messenger.
He carries the messages of the gods to the humans and so forth.
Would you say that that is what for Hidiger ultimately a real poet is all about?
For Hidiger up to 1945 that is what a poet is all about and that's really the determination of the Hodinger-Lien lecture courses where you have this poet of poets, Hodinger-Lien, who's also and not coincidentally the poet of the Germans,
and Germanness.
And Hidiger singles him out and sees this task in Hodinger-Lien, this poetic task of basically creating a people.
So this reading of Hodinger-Lien, these readings of Hodinger-Lien, the one from which you've quoted, that's why I asked when it was from because he returns to the same text after the war in this essay, "Podinger-Lien's Man from 52, I believe,
with a different emphasis where all of the Germanness is to an extent taken out of the interpretation."
So the task of the poet in founding a Heimat to a certain extent is one that stays with him from 33 to 45.
After that the task of poetry changes and becomes more, I would say, about thinking or thinking a world apart from its metaphysical determination.
That's what was at stake in the Hodinger-Lien lectures, except then it was explicitly cast in terms of Germanness and later that falls out by and large.
In regard to the point about the gods that you raised, that remains.
And the idea there, as I see it, in its dark spot in Hidiger, and I think that it should so remain to a certain extent, it's for it to be true to any sort of divinity.
He sees Hodinger-Lien's view of the gods as antithetical to that of Nietzsche.
For Nietzsche, God is dead, for Hodinger-Lien, the gods have flown or departed where they lack now.
But that departure leaves a trace.
There's no complete absence or complete presence.
The gods are neither completely present or completely absent.
Instead they're departed, that departure leaves a trace, and it is those among us who are poetically minded,
who are able to pick up on these traces, and those traces are precisely what a logic of presence and absence cannot accommodate into its register.
So these traces are again openings in some way.
What's departed is not completely gone, and what's here is not completely present.
And in that incompletion, it's constitutive of an openness of things to one another, to us, of us, to the world to this relational contextual weave of existence.
And so it's the poet who's able to name that, and it's precisely this contextual world that's avoided by a metaphysical discourse of presence and absence.
Very good.
Some of our listeners might say, "What does Hei de Grüssen mean by the gods? Does He mean the Greek gods?"
But I think from what you said, it's perhaps better understood the role of the divinities as something that has to do with the quality of things in the world,
and the way things appear to us, either as holy or sacred or as profaned and lacking in any dimension of holiness.
I think that's right.
When He talks about the holy, He also, the phylaga, he relates that to what is whole or the phylaga.
We might translate that as the "Hail," as we say, someone is "Hail" and "Harty" or something, that they're robust or complete in some way.
What's paradoxical about Paedegar's reading here is that precisely what's "Hail" or "Hole" is something that is not completely present.
Once again, it's the technological project that challenges things to completely show themselves at our disposal, ready for ordering, ready for delivery so that everything could be had at a moment's notice, this sort of culminates in the consumer society, the internet, etc.
It's precisely that sort of availability, which is unholy.
The holy is the space within which these whole, i.e., withdrawn things can show themselves in this contextual network of relations.
Poetry, he says, I don't know if it's, I'm presuming it's the same essay, "Holdron and the Essence of Poetry," so before, you know, 52.
But he does say that the task of the poet is to give names to the holy, which is not the task of the thinker.
The thinker has to think being, and the poet gets, well, it's not to give names to the holy, but rather to find names,
where the gods either offer themselves or deny their presence, as the case may be.
And I'm taking that from a statement that, "I'll quote him, "The writing of poetry is the fundamental naming of the gods,
but the poetic word only acquires its power of naming when the gods themselves bring us to language."
So there's nothing we can do if the gods have flown or have departed.
And there's nothing that the poet can do to necessarily bring the gods back, but he can at least remain on the trail of the trace of disappearance of the gods.
Right. Which is as present as the gods can be in our age. Right. Yes.
And I don't think that Heidegger would hold that they were ever fully present.
That would be, in a sense, sacrilege, to some extent, to think of the god as completely present in the at our disposal, even or disposable.
One thing on this connection of the divine in Heidegger's thinking is that he thinks within a tradition of metaphysics, which from the outset, has thought the divine.
So we can think of the unmoved mover or the phaos in Aristotle, the Plato's divinities, all of this. He doesn't want to just abandon that.
And so much of philosophy has been a seeking after proof for the existence of gods, more or less successful as the case may be.
And he's not interested in completely throwing away that past, but instead rethinking it, taking it to its limits.
So for him, the god or the gods or the divinities, all of these figures become moments of the outstanding.
What doesn't appear, what keeps the economy from closing in on itself, what can't be regulated within the circulation of technological products, etc.
So these divinities are moments of opening. And so in that essay, poetically dwells the human, it's precisely in an attempt to name the god and the failure of that attempt that the unknown inhabits language, comes into language and shapes it rhythmically.
I agree with that, and that's why, again, some people might listen to us say this is Germanic, portentous, Nordic, mystification.
But basically when you think about all the great poets, modern poets, and they don't have to be a hundred and a hundred or trackal and stuff, you can think of William Carlos Williams, even John Ashbury,
all contemporary poets where the ordinariness of the everyday things of the world, now all of a sudden, ordinary things take on a certain opacity or resistance.
And that's what I think you've been describing, that when the gods are either present or when the poet is on the trail of the absence of the gods, things now have their own
way of being in the world, where they're finally unconceivable or irreducible to codification, right?
Reification, whatever you want to call it.
Right. George Bautai, the French theorist, makes a claim that Hädiger would very much agree with, and that poetry is a sacrifice.
It's the sacrifice of words. Words are consumed in poetry in that they're taking out of their use context. They're no longer utilized or put to a purpose or task of conveying information.
If you read a poem, there's no takeaway lesson. I mean, if there is, it's not really a great poem I would wager.
Instead, this sacrifice of the utilitarian component is something that sacrifices language and brings it into some connection with divinity as you're saying.
And Paul C. Spallish, the French poet, the poet of things, of the thingliness of things, I think it would apply equally well to that.
There it is written on him as well.
Now, the trackal essay, he has two essays on trackal, I believe.
And you have written on the high-degener in trackal.
And I read you on that. It's very compelling.
Trackal, early 20th century poet, as you said, expressionist, nihilist in many ways.
And Heidegger looks at his corpus, and you mentioned earlier, he tries to find the place or the site from which this poetry speaks to us.
And as it's very typical of Heidegger, when he's trying to determine a site, he locates it not just spatially or geographically, but he locates it temporally and historically.
And for trackal, this voice is speaking to us from a very specific moment in historical time.
And he looks at all the imagery in the poetry of trackal.
And especially this pervasive color blue.
Blue is everywhere in trackal's poetry.
And it's very hard to get a handle on what the blue represents.
It doesn't represent anything.
Am I recalling correctly when Heidegger associates the blue on the one hand, the twilight, the very, very late hour, latest hour of the day, in which there's also a announcement or pre-enouncement of the possible new dawning of a new age.
And that trackal is somewhere in this, that the blue is the word for the sacred in that sense.
It's a word we've never reached the black of midnight with Heidegger, nor are we standing in the bright light of noon, but rather we occupy this creepuscular space of twilight that is both a dusk and a dawn at the same time.
And this is precisely the poet who sees that no matter how bad things have become or how horrible things may appear, that there still is this inkling of dawning there.
That this is ineraticable in some sense.
And that this is associated with the color blue.
And Heidegger is very sensitive to colors in his readings of poetry.
And also in his Nietzsche lecture courses and one on the eternal recurrence of the same, he pays attention to the colors of the berries that there are tootheders animals bring to him or something like this.
So he's a sensitive reader at times, despite the sort of megalomaniac portrayal of him that is often propagated.
This blue, however, this twilight color is a color of transition and change.
And it's precisely that where he focuses in the trochle reading on this transition between the human as defined metaphysically as animal, rasher, and owl, or zoan, logon, econ, and a move to mortality.
So there's a number of scenes in trochle's poetry where a figure departs or gets underway or is wandering.
And in many of the cases they end up at the edge of a forest.
And so in twilight at this liminal position, at a liminal time of twilight, at a liminal place, the edge of the forest, they catch sight of something up ahead.
And it's precisely that catching sight of something up ahead in trochle, it's typically a blue deer of all things, that the transformation is affected.
By exposure to something that lies beyond you, by entering into this blue twilight where such an encounter can take place, the human is transformed into the mortal.
And so I'd agree it's no longer interested in defining us by an essence that we would contain that would be within us, and out of which we would be generated in some sense.
But rather, we're defined by exposure to something beyond us, something unknowable in a sense.
And the gods play a role in shaping that unknowability as well.
Would you say that when the human is transformed into the mortal, that that mortal is by definition, a creature who has...
an understanding of or is in relation to the divinities?
Yes, only such a creature that is so open to what lies beyond it could have the divine appear to them.
Only such a creature, in other words, can put the divine up to decision.
Yes, right?
And so it's not a matter of whether the divine is present or absent or anything, but whether we're even capable of such an experience in the first place.
And that requires opening ourselves.
And I want to insist that this is not the tele-evangelist saying, "Jesus is going to come down anytime you open your heart to Jesus, and He is going to invade you, and He is going to save you, and He is going to take you to heaven, and you're going to win the Grand Lottery ticket."
This is the presence of the divine which will render the things of the world, the simple things that we dwell by, or should be dwelling with, and alongside, render them sacred in their own ordinary essence.
Yeah, make them whole in the sense that we mentioned before. I opened them up to their own relations, so that they're no longer thought of as strictly contained within their boundaries, or encapsulated within themselves, but rather,
they radiate out beyond themselves. They shine to use the word that you used from Heidegger. They gleam and shine, and the phenomenality of things, the material colors, the weightiness of them, is allowed to appear in some way.
That phenomenal appearing, that glow of things, streams out past their boundaries, and is able to reach us.
You write in your thing on track, I have an underline here that about shining, this shining of things is a shining of their freedom from subordination and objectification.
And shining is this phenomenon of surface and limit of things being so essentially defined by exposure, and what lies beyond them that they radiate or gleam into that beyond.
So this idea that the shining is the phenomenality of surface and limit, and then you go on to say that there really is on surface, that limit is not where something ends on the contrary, it's that from which it begins, it's unfolding into the world.
That's right, that's right. And I take that to mean that the thing begins out past itself in the world.
The boundary of the thing is not what closes it within itself, but that boundary of the thing is they're from where the thing mixes into the world, is smeared into the world in some way, enters into these relations.
It's the place from which the limit is the place from which the thing becomes inextricable from the world.
Yeah, it's the Paris, the Greek notion of the boundary, the limit, but it's in that sense the matrix.
Yes, the generative source. And generation plays a big role in Trockle's poetry, and Hiderger makes a great deal of generationality in his reading of Trockle.
And so, for example, since we don't have that much time left, he actually goes through the generations, and he refers to the very last poem that Trockle wrote before committing suicide.
As a poem, "Grotek," and its last lines are, "Today, a great pain feeds the hot flame of the spirit. The grandsons yet unborn."
And that's where his scorn for the literary critics comes in where he says, "Well, most people think that this is referring to the dead soldiers who will never had the occasion to be progenitors of the next generation."
But he says, "No, that that generation that is alive or was alive during the First World War, that that was the decaying generation. And that you're skipping the next generation, and the grandsons..."
Well, let me read it, what he says. These grandsons are not the unbegotten sons of the sons killed in battle, the progeny of the decaying generation.
The unborn are called grandsons because they cannot be sons, that is, they cannot be the immediate descendants of the generation that has gone to ruin.
Right. Now, what's he mean by that?
Well, if you follow him in thinking apart from presence and absence, what he's trying to think is something in between those, something in the middle.
He uses this language of the middle or the between throughout his work. That middle is a space of mediation where nothing is immediately present or immediately absent, where things are partially present, partially absent.
And so, the way I interpret the role of the grandson, as he sees it in Trockel or the grandchildren, is that they're not direct descendants, but rather a second step removed from that, i.e. mediated.
So, the only relation that is possible is one of mediation. All relations are mediated in this regard, as to the notion of generation that's gashleked in the Trockel.
I had to go once to think of this term, which means various things, from race, tribe, clan, to the sexes, the difference of the sexes. He tries to think this etymologically back to slog, which means to strike or to blow, to hit.
And what's important to hear here is that the stamping force of this blow that strikes, i.e. these people are struck by the beyond in some sense, isn't something that remains stuck upon them, but which itself must withdraw to release them.
So, the gashleked are those who have been struck, i.e. those who are defined by a blow that has withdrawn or pulled away, and therefore they maintain some sort of strange relation to this withdrawal.
This withdrawal defines them. So, the gashleked is going to be this gashleked, which is no longer going to be the animal rationale, the Zoan logon econ, as we previously mentioned, but is a group, a community defined by withdrawal.
Well, concluding questions so that we can wrap it all up, which is an impossible task, obviously, but it's been almost a century since trackal wrote those lines. It's been half a century since Heidegger commented on them.
And here we are in the beginning of the 21st century talking about the grandsons of a generation that perished a long time ago.
And historically, already the gods had fled the world and Heidegger's understanding of it by that time, where in the history of the generations do you think we stand now, historically speaking?
And are we just in the deep dark midnight of things? Is there any sign that there's a dawn out there coming upon us? Or is poetry, our poet still holding vigil in the dark night for any traces of such a dawn?
I think the latter is certainly the case that we're, where are we? We are precisely in the middle. That's what Heidegger gives us to think is that we are in the middle and we will always be in the middle.
And that what little there is, if there is, will always be challenged further. It can't be eradicated, but that's not necessarily a cause for great hope. It's a cause for great concern that we can always, things can always get worse.
If we're possible for these traces to be completely eradicated or in another register for us to become machines in some sense, then we would for go all responsibility. It would all be over. It would be out.
And we could just get on with being machines or executing our program or whatever that might be, getting on with the day-to-day business of life without any concern for this.
And there would be no responsibility. So Heidegger's thinking is an attempt to keep us in this responsible position. And precisely what thinking is for Heidegger and we didn't really get around to this, but it's very much allied with his conception of poetry.
It's a matter of thinking this withdrawal in his lecture course, what is called thinking. He discusses that what is most thought worthy is that we're not yet thinking.
And I don't think that means that we should, I wish we could all get together and just think, but rather that if you think of the not yet as somehow modifying the way we think, what's most thought worthy is to think this not yet in some regard. To think this withdrawal, and he says that this withdrawal is what's most thought worthy as well, and precisely what calls for thought.
Well, my only concern is that it's been half a century since he said that, and we're still trying to think that withdrawal and my more pessimistic moments, I think that there's no thinking at all taking place.
In other moments, I think that in a strange way, maybe that kind of thinking is indeed being enabled by the poets in our midst who are doing the hard work of keeping open the eye of wonder and
seeing the world as if, you know, for this first time again. I think that's right. Andrew, I brought one of your favorite songs to close the show with. Thanks a lot for coming on, and we wish you the best of luck in your new job at Emory. Thank you very much. We look forward to having you back with us soon in the future. Thank you.