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In the introduction to Imagining language, editors Steve McCaffery and Jed Rasula cite Paul Valery’s wonder when first reading Mallarme’s Coup de Des jamais n’abolira le hazard. It appeared as if “space itself truly spoke, dreamed, and gave birth to temporal forms. Expectancy, doubt, concentration, all were visible things. With my own eye I could see silences that had assumed bodily shapes. Inappreciable instants became clearly visible: the fraction of a second during which an idea flashes into being and dies away; atoms of time that swerve as the germs of infinite consequences lasting through psychological centuries – at last these appeared as beings, each surrounded with a palpable emptiness…There in the same void with them, like some new form of matter arranged in systems of masses or trailing lines, coexisted with the Word!”

Valery might just as well have been describing McCaffery’s own work, especially his Carnival series of ‘post-concrete’ poems, consisting of panels that must paradoxically be ripped out of a book and reassembled in order to be able to ‘read’ the end result.

Spatial organization and typograpy become more important than reading the text semantically. “There in the same void…systems of masses or trailing lines, coexisted with the Word!”

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2 thoughts on “Valery, Mallarme, McCaffery

  1. Mallarme has worked all his life on the poem “Herodiade,” and Valery all his life on “Narcissus”. Both poems are difficult to interpret and we have never seen them at the theater before. But for some time we can watch videos of these poems staged.
    The name of the director stage is Louis Latourre but I do not know the names of these (excellent) performers:

    Paul Valéry

    Stéphane Mallarmé

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