Ülev ei Kivisildniku luules. Üks lugemisviis. The Sublime „No” in Kivisildnik’s Poetry: A Way of Reading

Leo Luks


This article aims toward a phenomenological interpretation of the unmediated experience of reading Sven Kivisildnik’s poetry. As the basic theoretical thesis of the article, I assert that there is always an inherent negativity in the feeling of the sublime, since this feeling is caused by unrepresentable experience. Likewise, I claim that this negativity is not merely a lack in aesthetic representation, but that it has deep ontological meaning in itself. I make connections between the inherent negativity in the feeling of the sublime and the concept of failure of linguistic utterance worked out by Jaan Undusk, Jaak Tomberg and Jüri Lipping. I come to the conclusion that the „no” in the feeling of sublimity is given to us in unmediated form. The practical (or applied) intention of this article is to show that the dominant sociocentric interpretation of Kivisildnik’s poetry is one-sided and limiting. From the theoretical positions I have worked out, I outline the fundamental motifs of Kivisildnik’s poetry, and by means of examples drawn from the text, demonstrate how the „no” of the sublime is found there. I come to the conclusion that the dominant direction in Kivisildnik’s poetry is destruction. The article consists of an introduction, five sections, and a summary. In the first section („Approaches”), I briefly introduce the phenomenological approach. My position is that the work is always created during the act of reading, as the outcome of the union of text and reader. However, I leave the reader as subject open to definition, leaving it to drift as it were, since I am sceptical about the possibility of defining the subject. I do not claim that the sublime is the only possible conceptual framework for understanding poetry; rather, I consider the sublime as one proper theoretical metaphor for conceptualizing personal experience of reading. In the second section of the article („Defining poetry”), I make use of Rein Raud’s distinctions to provide a preliminary definition of poetry, as located between cognition-centred, grammar-centred, and sociocentric approaches. Due to my phenomenological leanings, I am inclined toward the cognition-centred approach. Next, I discuss the difference between poetry and prose, using Maurice Blanchot’s interpretation of the two slopes of literature. In the rest of the article I focus on the second of these slopes, the one that reaches outward from the world of literature – that is, on poetry. The third section („The Dissolution of the Sublime in Failure”), I rebound from the positions of Undusk, Tomberg, and Lipping, according to whom utterance is unavoidably failure, and that the main goal of the aesthetic text is a drive toward silence. I connect the experience of hearing the silence within utterance with the concept of the sublime, using as bridging concepts Immanuel Kant’s classic definition of the sublime and the subsequent development of this idea by Jean-François Lyotard. According to Lyotard, the general purpose o modern art is striving toward negative representation, that is, toward the avoidance of representation. In the fourth section („Ontological Excursus: The Sublime (No)Thing?”), I use Rodolphe Gasché’s arguments to critique Lyotard’s fundamental ontological position, according to which the universe of the phrase is all-encompassing (and contains silence), and something is always happening. According to Gasché’s interpretation – with which I concur, there is within the sublime of non-representability the possibility of non-being as the final phrase. I go on to deepen the latter possibility using Martin Heidegger’s discussion of the unmediated experience of no-thing in anxiety. In order to emphasize the processuality of this possibility, in the following line of reasoning I abandon the concept of no-thing in favour of the more ambiguous „no”. The fifth section („Poetry’s ways of „no”-ing”), I distinguish between three possible types of no-ing poetry, without pretending to any comprehensiveness in this list: metaphysical poetry; poetry that is undergoing weakening or decline, and the poetry of destruction. I then discuss the poetry of Kivisildnik in the framework of this typology, and come to the conclusion that for Kivisildnik, what dominates is the poetry of destruction. In the sixth section, („Great viperous lines...”), I briefly consider the three key motifs of Kivisildnik’s sublime poetry of destruction: terror, abortion, and Estonia as an empty signifier. In the concluding section I demonstrate that the question raised by postmodern art – what is art? is also relevant to Kivisildnik’s poetry. I examine four stylistic figures through which Kivisildnik’s poetry falls into essential uncertainty: mechanicalness, the dispersal of authorship, the turning-into-itself of poetry, and the text’s transmissions into emptiness.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7592/methis.v3i4.510


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