Thursday, December 17, 2009

Heidegger's poet-creator

Trifles deserve to be trifled with but I’ve been reading Freud on parapraxis and wonder why it is I have begun to neglect Heidegger for trifles – or, what an erratic mind I must have to so readily shift from serious Heidegger to poetry and trifles. 

Now I could argue that Heidegger himself sought to concentrate more on poetry as he progressed.  He may have ended by valuing poetry above philosophy.  But I cannot claim to have progressed logically from Heidegger’s philosophy to poetry unless parapraxis was also at work in me.  I have not concentrated so much upon Heidegger that I can imagine the thought processes that led him from the nihilism of his existentialism (he abhorred nihilism) to tradition and poetry.  I have an idea of what he saw in tradition although I won’t swear that this idea is Heidegger’s and not mine, but his interest in poetry eludes me – except that he thought of poets as creators, creators even of civilizations.  Of course he didn’t mean just any poet.  Minor poets I’m sure haven’t created civilizations, but Holderlin was a civilization-creating poet.  I suspect that Heidegger was being overly ambitious here.  He thought of Holderlin as his poetic predecessor and of his own philosophy as creating the new civilization – at least as much as Rousseau, Descartes, Kant, and Hegel created civilizations.  For if we think of an ethnicity’s “authentic” tradition we must (if I understand Heidegger) find both tradition and the poet-creator back there.  It is the poetry of Holderlin and whatever Heidegger concluded was authentic in tradition that provides authenticity. 

And where is America’s civilization-creating poet?  Surely if we have one it must be Walt Whitman.  He wasn’t all the way back in our founding fathers day, but an argument could be made that the American civilization wasn’t truly launched until we had our Civil War.

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