Poetic Measures: a variable measure for the fixed

Conference, University of York, 1-3 July 2016



Poetic Measures A variable measure


From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit
Proceeds, unless restored by that refining fire
Where you must move in measure, like a dancer

 -T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

When Pearse summoned Cuchulain to his side.
What stalked through the post Office? What intellect,
What calculation, number, measurement, replied?
We Irish, born into that ancient sect
But thrown upon this filthy modern tide
And by its formless spawning fury wrecked,
Climb to our proper dark, that we may trace
The lineaments of a plummet-measured face.

-W.B. Yeats, ‘The Statues’

To write poetry is measure-taking, understood in the strict sense of the word, by which man first receives the measure for the breadth of his being. […]

A strange measure for ordinary and in particular also for all merely scientific ideas, certainly not a palpable stick or rod but in truth simpler to handle than they, provided our hands do not abruptly grasp but are guided by gestures befitting the measure here to be taken. This is done by a taking which at no time clutches at the standard but rather takes it in a concentrated perception, a gathered taking-in, that remains a listening.

-Martin Heidegger, ‘…Poetically Man Dwells…’



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