Road Back to Semantics

Umberto Eco
“Porta: Rhythm and The Poetic List”
translated by Samuel Fleck
in Piercing the Page

[A formulation he repeats from the Postcript to The Name of the Rose]

I said that signifiers engender a thought and not that a thought engenders signifiers, the words to express it — and this is my notion of poetry; while on the one hand prose and narrative follow in particular the Ciceronian precept of rem tene verba sequentur, poetry and that of Porta in particular follows the principle in which verba tene, res sequentur. And he says so himself:


Let us return to the concept of physicality of the poetry; let us discuss, that is to say, poetic language more so than mere “poetry,” of doing more than being, of the signifier over the signified. Let us put on hold queries into “what it means,” what it communicates, in order to concentrate our attention on how it is on what sort of thing it is, on how it sounds, on how it is pronounced, on how it stirs the language.

John Picchione introduction to Antonio Porta selections in Italian Poetry Today edited by Ruth Feldman & Brian Swann [p. 413]

In its first stage, Porta’s creativity is guided by a poetics which, on one hand, advocates poetic writing as a cognitive medium capable not only of presenting reality, or history, but also of projecting hypothetical or utopian models of existence, and, on the other, expresses an autonomous conception of art. Poetry is intended as a world in itself and not as a metaphor of the world. The most striking example is represented by Cara (1969), which seems to hypothesize that language represents only the material presence of itself. Poetry is identified solely with its linguistic construction, with the rhythmic and syntactic space in which it moves.


It begins in sound…

Joy Harjo
Beautiful Baby, Beautiful Child (a lullaby)
in Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings

Beautiful baby, beautiful child
Hokosucē herosē, Estuce herosē.


Mvskoke Word List

It carries on in words, songs, toughness and love…

“One Day There Will Be Horses (a traveling song)”

One day, I will have words enough
One day, I will have songs enough
One day, I will be tough enough
One day, I will have love enough
To go home.

Eco, again, ““Thus I rediscovered what writers have always known (and have told us again and again): books always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told.” Postscript to the Name of the Rose.

One of those stories twice-told is the return to language. Home. A trip to be always undertaken anew.

And so for day 2638

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