Radical Rhetoric: literature as ‘Happy Creation’ and Blogging

In a previous post, I chose Jeb Birdman Corliss as an extreme case of ‘follow- your- passion’ type. As I roam the Blogocean, some bloggers choose to navigate the highs and lows of their lives through poetry, it is true from the comfort of their homes, but it does not mean that this endeavor is void of any risk. Unfortunately  depression, suicide lurk behind the lonely, isolated blogging scenes.

Are they writing by passion, by vocation?  Maybe by temperament, like the Individulalist from the enneagram. I don’t know. What is sure is that these writings constitute a passionate outlet to express their angst and existential crisis, overtly preferable to any therapy. The overall feeling I get is that poetry should be written by everyone.

Francis_PongeOne of my favorite poets , the French poet (mystic rather) Francis Ponge, already expressed this idea in the first half of last century, at a time when poetry was “merely a preoccupation of the idle and overeducated”*:


 Je suppose qu’il s’agit de sauver quelques jeunes hommes du suicide et quelques autres de l’entrée aux flics ou aux pompiers. Je pense à ceux qui se suicident par dégoût, parce qu’ils trouvent que « les autres » ont trop de part en eux-mêmes.

On peut leur dire : donnez tout au moins la parole à la minorité de vous-mêmes. Soyez poètes. Ils répondront : mais c’est là surtout, c’est là encore que je sens les autres en moi-même, lorsque je cherche à m’exprimer je n’y parviens pas. Les paroles sont toutes faites et s’expriment : elles ne m’expriment point. Là encore j’étouffe. C’est alors qu’enseigner l’art de résister aux paroles devient utile, l’art de ne dire que ce que l’on veut dire, l’art de les violenter et de les soumettre. Somme toute fonder une rhétorique, ou plutôt apprendre à chacun l’art de fonder sa propre rhétorique, est une œuvre de salut public. Cela sauve les seules, les rares personnes qu’il importe de sauver : celles qui ont la conscience et le souci et le dégoût des autres en eux-mêmes. Celles qui peuvent faire avancer l’esprit, et à proprement parler changer la face des choses.

Francis Ponge, Le parti pris des choses ; Ed. NRF/Gallimard.


I assume that we are talking about saving a few young men from suicide and a few others from becoming cops or firemen. I have in mind those who commit suicide out of disgust, because they find that others own too large a share of them. To them one should say: at least let the minority within you have the right to speak. Be poets. They will answer: but it is especially there, it is always there that I feel others within me; when I try to express myself, I am unable to do so. Words are ready made and express themselves: they do not express me. Once again I find myself suffocating. At that moment, teaching the art of resistance against the word becomes useful, the art of saying only what one wants to say, the art of doing them violence, of forcing them to submit. In short… Found a rhetoric, or rather, teach everyone the art of founding his own rhetoric. This saves those few, those rare individuals who must be saved: those who are aware, and who are troubled and disgusted by the others within them, those individuals who make the mind progress, and who are, strictly speaking, capable of changing the reality of things.

* and largely a male endeavor, hence the sexist wording.

I see in Ponge’s election of ‘those few worth saving’ including himself, the characteristics of the individualist type of the enneagram (four). What is the role of this art of founding one’s own rhetoric besides avoiding suicide [especially for the Individualist more prone than others to this fate]?

Creation heureuse/ happy Creation is Ponge answer, from personal experience.

It is a response, maybe as radical as suicide, not less today than then, to the violence and alienation that others and society as a whole enforce on passionate souls, those honest, authentic, haters of social phoniness (typical of Fours). Indeed, for Ponge (in opposition to Camus in The myth of Sisyphus)  the temptation of suicide is a luxury reserved to idle youths: ” ontological suicide is the act of a few young bourgeois (otherwise endearing)”. Ponge countered violently his ‘death wish’ ,that he grappled with all along his own journey, by an appeal to birth thanks to the poetic work ” to oppose [to death]  birth (or resurrection); metalogical creation”. [Ponge was probably an individualist type that succeeded to transcend his moods by committing himself to a worthwhile goal (integration to One/the reformer the healthy way)]

However, for Ponge, the salutary effect literature embodies extends beyond the individualistic and psychological to the communal and political. He writes in “pages bis V” (PR, I, 219) in complement to’ rhetoric’:

“when I said  that it was for us to save from suicide a few young men, I was not complete: it is also about saving them from resignation (and the people from inertia)”

So ” all in all , to found a rhetoric, or rather to teach each and everyone the art of founding one’s own rhetoric should be state approved.”(PR, I, 193)

Ponge_Rhetoric_terrorismGerd Henniger’s essay on Ponge’s rhetoric shows some contemporary themes for founding a rhetoric which the blogging venue can take advantage of:

Methodical Terrorism : An Art of Stupidity

Nous avons pousse a bout la Terreur, et decouvert la Rhetorique. Jean Paulhan [Ponge’s mentor].

  • “Paulhan’s discovery that every terrorism invents a new rhetoric- hence, rhetoric is perfected terror…”
  • Rhetoric[ …] means making use of self-awareness of man as a language- producing being who can put an end to this alienation from the world[see Rhetoric above]. Long before social alienation,  there was an alienation caused by logic, which was the root cause of man’s being sick of himself, but in contrast to irrationalism, which rejects logical thinking, Ponge uses the evident destruction of logic as a new beginning: ” Down with intellectual merit! This cry of rebellion is still acceptable. I do not want to stop there, but I will praise stupidity by resorting to an abuse of any kind of technique of language or RHETORIC to all others!” (pas et le saut, Proemes).

Ponge’s Mystics

  • Rhetoric is as well ‘being’ as ‘form’: “Things are already as much words as things and conversely words are already as much things as words” (La fabrique du pre)
  • Contemplation, meditation: “LETTERS, mysterious objects accessible to only 2 senses and yet more real, more pleasant than signs- I want to bring you again closer to substance and remove you from your specific quality. I want to make you loved more for yourselves than for your meanings.” (La promenade dans nos serres, Proemes)

Eros victorious over thanatos

  • self-sacrifice: “I am not the first who has noticed that the birth of the text demands the death of the author” (P.Sollers, Entretien avec F. Ponge)
  • Word + thing: “it is their copulation which is realized by writing (true or perfect); it is the ensuing orgasm which provokes our jubilation” (la fabrique du pre)
  • after decades of patient struggle with language, which camouflaged its lack of concreteness with reason, comes the legitimate happiness which culminates in certainty that ‘I have given pleasure to the human kind.’ (My creative method)

Creatives, like the enneagram type the individualist for example,  might not all have literary or artistic talent, but from what I’ve seen so far on the blogocean, they are resolutely intent on founding a rhetoric for themselves. Self-analysis as practiced in therapy is shunned for ‘happy creation’ and community building of ‘kindred spirits’, which is a good thing (especially for fours) as long as they don’t isolate themselves too much. Is the virtual world of blogging enough to fend off emotional roller- coastering?

Today’s Fool’s message

If you are of the opinion that the contemplation of suicide is sufficient evidence of a poetic nature, do not forget that actions speak louder than words. Fran Lebowitz

Happy Heuristics

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