This volume collects a decade of writing on poetry, language, and
the theory of writing by a major figure in contemporary poetry --
one of the most innovative and conceptually challenging poets of
the last twenty-five years. In essays that are wide ranging, richly
detailed, and complex in their surprising juxtapositions of
disparate material, Steve McCaffery works to undo the current
bifurcation between theory and practice -- to show how a poetic
text might be the source rather than the product of the theoretical
principles against which it must be read.
McCaffery approaches the poetic work as an occasion for
philosophical reflection and discovery, reading works as diverse as
Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra, Charles Olson's Maximus Poems,
the Marquis de Sade's fiction, Samuel Johnson's Dictionary via
Wittgenstein, and Jackson Mac Low's aleatory poetry to show how
language actually behaves rather than how it is designed to
function. Exploring a range of writing from seventeenth-century
England to the avant-garde contemporary poetics of writers such as
Robin Blaser and Karen MacCormack, these essays trace intersections
along a broad conceptual plane that McCaffery terms the
"protosemantic", demonstrating how a reader must examine the
interstices of each text, its paragrammatic possibilities, its
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