Addressing all readers who value the beauty of language, Anna Balakian examines the work of five twentieth-century poets--Yeats, Valry, Rilke, Stevens, and Guilln--to show how the linguistic richness of the symbolist tradition continued well into the modern period. These writers, all of whom learned the poetry of language from Mallarm, compensated for the disappearance of metaphysical inclinations in early twentieth-century poetry by instituting a poetic fiction. Balakian finds the immersion of the "I" and its altered reflection in the work of art to be a common feature of their poetry, and explores how they replaced the conventional meaning of signifiers grown stale, such as the abused word "poet," which became musician, artist, dancer, acrobat, mime, tapestry weaver, rider of the earth and the skies. In the works of these poets, the symbol evolved into a selective system of communication that identified implicitly the realms of human dilemma in regard to time, space, place, and reality in an indifferent universe. Balakian explains how the poets made language posit the major problems of existence and survival through metaphors of transition and, with the polysemy of their discourse, spoke to each reader on his or her terms. Like a serial musical composition, this literary interpretation interweaves leitmotifs from one writer to another, creating a basic cohesion while revealing variations and transformations in their poetry.
Originally published in 1992.
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Subjects: Language & Literature
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