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Document Details :
Title: Poëzie en de dood
Subtitle: Filosofische beschouwingen over Gerrit Kouwenaars totaal witte kamer
Author(s): FAURE, Gerbert
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Filosofie
Volume: 84 Issue: 2 Date: 2022
In 2002, Gerrit Kouwenaar (1923-2014) published the collection of poems totaal witte kamer, in which he attempts to capture the memories of his deceased wife in language. In this paper, I argue that Kouwenaars ideas about the relationship between language and reality have a philosophical significance that transcends the biographical context in which they arose. A close reading of some poems from totaal witte kamer reveals that poetry in general can be understood as an attempt to express the singularity of experience. This attempt essentially fails, for two reasons. Firstly, in order to express experience, the poet must manipulate language in such a way that it becomes meaningless. A poet must choose between two undesirable alternatives, because the poem cannot at the same time be meaningful and truthful. Language implies the death of experience and vice versa. Secondly, even if the poem manages to be true to experience, it remains a linguistic artefact. The more a poem manages to represent reality, the more we understand that reality itself is absent.