Poet Alice Notley once remarked, ‘like many writers I feel ambivalent about words, I know they don't work, I know they aren't it’ (Notley 2010: n.pag.). Over centuries, in both East and West, poets, mystics, philosophers, and worshippers have developed a semantics of negation—apophasis—to deal with what lies beyond language, to draw closer to uttering what cannot be said. As part of my PhD research I am experimenting with apophasis as a poetic strategy, exploring representations (in both poetic form and content) of absence through space, silence, and denial. Taking Notley’s statement as a reference point, this paper contemplates, from a practitioner perspective and through examples of my creative work, the idea that every poem is an attempt to write into the unsayable.
Apophatic Strategy in Poetic Practice