- Reviewed by
Poetic Disinterest: Power, Movement, and Language After Heidegger
Krzysztof Ziarek’s study of Martin Heidegger calls attention to the German philosopher’s writing and to the movement and momentum of his poetic practice. Ziarek frames Heidegger’s thinking-writing as a practice focused on what is revealed in the turning of words, on what appears in the synergy between words as signs and words in their singular relationship to the world. In this translation and interpretation of volumes 71 and 74 of Heidegger’s Collected Works (Gesamtausgabe, GA 71 and GA 74), Ziarek “underscores the idiomatic character of Heidegger’s approach” (xi). Ziarek’s discussion of these works, which were written in the 1930s and 1940s, builds a useful bridge between Heidegger’s philosophy on language and the performance of language itself. This distinction, which Ziarek illustrates by way of contemporary poetry, permits readers to consider the “inventive ‘language’ in thinking” (63) across the arts as the material atmosphere that has mitigated the effects of our engagements with power in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
This edition is an essential contribution to the growing array of discourses on what has come to be known as Conceptual Poetry,1 a form of writing that raises essential questions about innovations in the poetic genre that are related to genealogies of power. By engaging the rigorous body of scholarship on Heidegger’s views of how language “works,” Ziarek treats language as a way of thinking that produces words that are, literally, “power-free.” Ziarek’s comments on innovative poetry, which he defines as cartographic narratives of words-in-their-situationality, are therefore timely, providing a jargon-free contextualization of works by Myung Mi Kim (Dura  and River Antes ) and Susan Howe (The Europe of Trusts  and Souls of the Labadie Tract ). Ziarek’s reading of these works will be appealing to Heidegger scholars, since they seem to have significance that extends beyond the specificity of place. Readers might recall Heidegger’s obsession with poetry, which impelled his own forays into poetic writing, as evidenced in his introduction to Mindfulness (Besinnug). Ziarek’s discussion of Kim and Howe engages Heidegger’s notion of inflected idiom and calls attention to its productive capacities. His study offers an exciting, original and philosophically-grounded way of thinking of form, language, and the aesthetic entanglements of reading [End Page 176]
In the first half of Language After Heidegger, Ziarek builds on his understanding of idiomatic shifts and performative utterances that define ways of configuring the spatiotemporal or the situational disposition between Being (Sein) and Beyng (Seyn). In the book’s second half, Ziarek offers his own analyses of the potential of language as it is revealed in poetic practice. He draws poetry closer to philosophy via readings of Heidegger’s own poetic language, which, Ziarek shows, hints at the ways in which conceptual poetry refuses to “say” outright what has been transformed in the world. His discussion emphasizes the importance of Heidegger’s call for transformative thinking, which the philosopher implicitly issues, for example, when he turns a word by supplementing prefixes and by creating neologisms. Ziarek shows his readers that in their use of language, they are charged with an address that must be thought, and that cannot be considered in an adjacency to discourse or embodied in our existing forms of identification.
In spite of his study’s challenging content, Ziarek explains Heidegger’s method in clear and accessible terms that open the philosopher’s thought to a wide readership. In chapter one, entitled “Event | Language,” Ziarek traces the linguistic “turn” Heidegger made following Contributions to Philosophy, pointing out the significance of the work’s last chapter, “Language (Its Origin).” In it, Heidegger described his own unique way of “asking the question of being” (14). This “asking” is performed in the philosopher’s innovative way of saying which, Ziarek explains, often took the form “of hyphenated words and word series or constellations, […] etymological connections or the networks of prefixes and the new resonances they lend to established words and concepts” (15). Ziarek shows...