# PHILOSOPHY /// Poetics of Relation by Edouard Glissant

Edouard Glissant is a magnificent poet-philosopher who develops the most beautiful French writing I’ve ever read. He is one of those authors that makes your reading slowing down (which in my case is miraculous) and moves you in your humanity.
As talented as Betsy Wing, his English translator, is, the beauty of language do not (and probably cannot) transfer from French to English but the substance remains… 

Here are three excerpts of Poetics of Relation, one of his main books:

Imaginaire


Penser la pensée revient le plus souvent à se retirer dans un lieu sans dimension où l’idée seule de la pensée s’obstine. Mais la pensée s’espace réellement au monde. Elle informe l’imaginaire des peuples, leurs poétiques diversifiées qu’à son tour elle transforme, c’est-à-dire, dans lesquels se réalise son risque.

La culture est la précaution de ceux qui prétendent à penser la pensée mais se tiennent a l’écart de son chaotique parcours. Les cultures en évolution infèrent la Relation, le dépassement qui fonde leur unité-diversité.

La pensée dessine l’imaginaire du passé : un savoir en devenir. On ne saurait l’arrêter pour l’estimer, ni l’isoler pour l’émettre. Elle est partage dont nul ne peut se départir ni, s’arrêtant, se prévaloir.

Imaginary


Thinking thought usually amounts to withdrawing into a dimensionless place in which the idea of thought alone persists. But thought in reality spaces itself out into the world. It informs the imaginary of peoples, their varied poetics, which it then transforms, meaning, in them its risk becomes realized.

Culture is the precaution of those who claim to think thought but who steer clear of its chaotic journey. Evolving cultures infer Relation, the overstepping that grounds their unity-diversity.

Thought draws the imaginary of the past: a knowledge becoming. One cannot stop it to assess it nor isolate it to transmit it. It is sharing one can never not retain, nor ever, in standing still, boast about.

 

Répétitions


Ce flux de convergences, qui se publie sous la forme du lieu commun. Celui-ci n’est plus généralité reçue, convenance ni fadeur – il n’est plus évidence trompeuse, abusant le sens-commun -, mais acharnement et ressassement de ces rencontres. Tout alentour, l’idée se relaie. Quand vous éveillez un constat, une certitude, un espoir, ils s’efforcent déjà quelque part, ailleurs, sous une autre espèce.

Aussi bien la répétition est elle, ici et là, un mode avoué de la connaissance. Reprendre sans répit ce que depuis toujours vous avez dit. Consentir a l’élan infinitésimal, à l’ajout, inaperçu peut-être, qui dans votre savoir s’obstinent.

Le difficile est que l’entassement de ces lieux communs n’échoue pas en un bougonnement sans nerf – l’art y pourvoie ! Le probable : que vous alliez à fond de toutes confluences, pour démarquer vos inspirations.

 

Repetitions


This flood of convergences, publishing itself in the guise of the commonplace. No longer is the latter an accepted generality, suitable and dull – no longer is it deceptively obvious exploiting common sense – it is, rather, all that is relentlessly and endlessly reiterated by these encounters. On every side the idea is being relayed. When you awaken an observation, a certainty, a hope, they are already struggling somewhere, elsewhere, in another form.

Repetition, moreover, in an acknowledged form of consciousness both here and elsewhere. Relentlessly resuming something you have already said. Consenting to an infinitesimal momentum, an addition perhaps unnoticed that stubbornly persists in your knowledge.

The difficulty: to keep this growing pile of common places from ending up as dispirited grumbling – may art provide! The probability: that you come to the bottom of all confluences to mark more strongly your inspirations.

 

Généralisations


Reconnaitre, imaginer, la Relation.
Entreprise encore, et combien déguisée, de généralisation universalisante ?
Fuite, en avant des problèmes ?
Nul imaginaire n’aide réellement à prévenir la misère, à s’opposer aux oppressions, à soutenir ceux qui « supportent » dans leur corps ou dans leur esprit. Mais l’imaginaire modifie les mentalités, si lentement qu’il en aille.

De quelque endroit ou l’on se trouve, et quelle que soit la force d’errance, on entend monter le désir de « donner avec », de surprendre l’ordre dans le chaos ou au moins d’en deviner l’improbable motivation : de développer cette théorie qui échapperait aux généralisations.

La poétique ? Précisément cette double portée, d’une théorie qui tache à conclure, d’une présence qui ne conclut (ne présume) de rien. Non point l’une sans l’autre. C’est par là que l’instant et la durée nous confortent.
Toute poétique est un palliatif d’éternité.

 

Edouard Glissant. Poétique de la Relation. Paris : Gallimard 1990


Generalization


Recognizing, imagining, Relation.
Yet another undertaking, thoroughly disguised, of universalizing generalization?
Escape, the problems at our heels?
No imagination helps avert destitution in reality, none can oppose oppressions or sustain those who “withstand” in body or spirit. But imagination changes mentalities, however slowly it may go about this.

No matter where one is, no matter how strong the force of errantry, one can hear the mounting desire to “give-on-and-with”, to discover order in chaos or at least to guess its unlikely motivation: to develop this theory that would escape generalizations.

Poetics? Precisely this double thrust, being a theory that tries to conclude, a presence that concludes (presumes) nothing. Never one without the other. That is how the instant and duration comfort us.
Every poetics is a palliative for eternity.

 

Edouard Glissant. Poetics of Relation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press 1997

7 Comments on “# PHILOSOPHY /// Poetics of Relation by Edouard Glissant

  1. Pingback: Edouard Glissant Passed Away Today « Repeating Islands

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  3. I have been, like so many, much saddened by the death of one of Martinique’s great sons. I live in the UK and am currently researching visual arts and its association with literature in the Antilles. AndI do hope it is possible to ask a question; I want to know in which one of his books/Essays, Glissant commented on visual arts/artist, including on Gauguin’s stay and Breton’s stays in Martinique. Thank you. Have a nice day! Eliane

  4. Re- my question on Glissant and visual arts, please notify me by e-mail. Thank you E

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  7. I also need to know the answer Elaine!
    I wrote about Gauguin’s sojourn and would like to read more Glissant.
    perhaps email if you managed to hunt out the reference.

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