This week, Professor Colangelo from the University of Bologna offered us an insight into his study of poetry with his presentation: “Voice and Verse: At The Origins of Contemporary Poetry”. Colangelo’s lecture was rich in powerful quotes and excerpts from philosophers, poets, and historians. His slides focused exclusively on the textual, offering both the Italian and English renditions of the text being discussed. The importance of presenting the original form of the text aligns with Colangelo’s argument that foreignness is key to origins.

Colangelo explained that poetry has no distinct origin because poetry is absolute and a state of mind. He referenced Benedetto Croce who said, “Art is pure intuition or pure expression… but a kind of intuition not at all devoid of concepts and judgments, the primordial form of knowledge, without which it is impossible to understand its other more complex forms”.

Colangelo’s discussion of foreignness and origins was centered around the claim that if one’s view is too rooted in a certain culture, then no origins can be created due to a person’s understanding of a topic being dependent upon previously acquired knowledge. In this sense, nobody can be a true listener if they have or draw upon previous knowledge in their interpretation of the matter at hand. Along these lines, no origin can be achieved without novelty.

A story was told about a man who traveled from country to country without any understanding of the local languages. This man displayed an intent to hear something without being subjected to its constructed meaning. He made an attempt to view something simply for its aesthetic qualities rather than any attached conceptual signification.

This idea that meaning may in fact be detrimental to speech (or writing) is powerful in relation to poetry. Gaston Bachelard was brought up by Colangelo. Bachelard was noted for saying, “While all other metaphysical experiences are preceded by endless introductions, poetry rejects all preambles, general principles, methods and proofs. It rejects doubt. At the most it requires a prelude made of silence. At first, drumming on concave words, it quiets prose and those reverberations that would leave in the soul of the reader a continuity of thought or a few murmurs. Then after these empty sounds, it produces its moment.”

I feel this passage aptly captures poetry’s nature as something more primal and powerful than constructed meaning. Simply its vocalization and presentation completes the art form. Pre-existing knowledge needs not be drawn in to appreciate work in the genre. In fact, it may even spoil it. This notion applies in situations far beyond just poetry. Using poetry as an example, it highlights how much of the content we digest ought to be truly listened to, rather than comprehended through our preexisting filters.