The Poetics of Space By Gaston Bachelard Translated from the French by Maria Jolas With a new foreword by John R. Stilgoe Boston: Beacon Press, 1994 - Philosophy - 241 pages An excerpt—pages 51 to 53 51 house and universe … Sometimes the house grows and spreads so that, in order to live in it, greater elasticity of daydreaming, a daydream that is less clearly outlined, are needed. “My house,” writes Georges Spyridaki,1 “is diaphanous, but it is not of glass. It is more of the nature of vapor. Its walls contract and expand as I desire. At times, I draw them close about me like protective armor ... But at others, I let the walls of my house blossom out in their own space, which is infi· nitely extensible.” Spyridaki’s house breathes. First it is a coat of armor, then it extends ad infinitum, which amounts to saying that we live in it in alternate security and adventure. It is both cell and world. Here, geometry is transcended. To give unreality to an image attached to a strong reality is in the spirit of poetry. These lines by René Cazelles2 speak to us of this expansion, if we can inhabit his images. The following was written in the heart of Provence, a coun· try of sharp contours: “The undiscoverable house, where this lava flower blows, where storms and exhausting bliss are born, when will my search for it cease? ...... ...... ................. .... ..... .... .. ... . “Symmetry abolished, to serve as fodder for the winds ... ...... .. ..... .... ..... . .... .... ............ .. “I should like my house to be similar to that of the ocean wind, all quivering with gulls.” Thus, an immense cosmic house is a potential of every dream of houses. Winds radiate from its center and gulls fly from its windows. A house that is as dynamic as this allows the poet to inhabit the universe. Or, to put it dif· fervently, the universe comes to inhabit his house. 1 George Spyridaki. Mort lucide, p. 35. Séghers, Paris. 2 René Cazelles, De terre et d’envolée, pp.13, 36. "G.L.M." Paris. 52 the poetics of space Occasionally, in a moment of repose, the poet returns to the center of his abode (p. 29) . . . . Tout respire à nouveau La nappe est blanche ( … Everything breathes again The tablecloth is white) This bit of whiteness, this tablecloth suffices to anchor the house to its center. The literary houses described by Georges Spyridaki and René Cazelles are immense dwellings the walls of which are on vacation. There are moments when it is a salutary thing to go and live in them, as a treatment for claustrophobia. The image of these houses that integrate the wind, aspire to the lightness of air, and bear on the tree of their impossible growth a nest all ready to fly away, may perhaps be rejected by a positive, realistic mind. But it is of value for a general thesis on the imagination because, without the poet's knowing it apparently, it is touched by the attraction of opposites, which lends dynamism to the great archetypes. In an article1 in the Eranos yearbook. Erich Neumann shows that all strongly terrestrial beings—and a house is strongly terrestrial—are nevertheless subject to the attractions of an aereal, celestial world.The well-rooted house likes to have a branch that is sensitive to the wind, or an attic that can hear the rustle of leaves. The poet who wrote L’escalier des arbres On y monte2 (On the stairs of the trees We mount) was certainly thinking of an attic. 1 Erich Neumann, Die Bedeutung des Erdarchetyps fur die Neuzeit. Eranos-Jahrbuch, 1955, p. 12. 2 Claude Hartmann. Nocturnes, La Galère, Paris. 53 house and universe If we compose a poem about a house, it frequently happens that the most flagrant contradictions come to wake w from our doldrums of concepts, as philosophers would say, and free us from our utilitarian geometical notions. In this fragment by René Cazelles, solidity is achieved by an imaginary dialectics. We inhale in it the impossible odor of lava, here granite has wings. Conversely, the sudden wind is as rigid as a girder. The house conquers its share of sky. It has the entire sky for its terrace. But my commentary is becoming too precise. Concern-· ing the different characteristics of the howe, it is inclined to be hospitable to fragmentary dialectics, and if I were to pursue it, I should destroy the unity of the archetype. However, this is always the case. It is better to leave the ambivalences or the archetype wrapped in their dominant quality. This is why a poet will always be more suggestive than a philosopher. It is precisely his right to be suggestive. Pursuing the dynamism that belongs to suggestion, then, the reader can go farther, even too far. In reading and re-reading René Cazelles’ poem, once we have accepted the burst of the image, we know that we can reside not only in the topmost heights of the house, but in a super-height. There are many images with which I like to make super-height experiments. The image of the house in the solid representation is folded lengthwise. When the poet unfolds it and spreads it out, it presents a very pure phenomenological aspect. Consciousness becomes “uplifted” in contact with an image that, ordinarily, is “in repose.” The image is no longer descriptive, but resolutely inspirational. It is a strange situation. The space we love is unwilling to remain permanently enclosed. It deploys and appears to move elsewhere without difficulty; into other times, and on different planes of dream and memory. Is there a reader who would fail to take advantage of the ubiquity of a poem like this one: Ure maison dressée au coeur Ma cathédrale de silence Chaque matin reprise en réve 54 the poetics of space Et chaque soir abandonnée Une maison couverte d'aube Ouverte au vent de ma jeunesse1 (A house that stands in my heart My cathedral of silence Every morning recaptured in dream Every evening abandoned A house covered with dawn Open to the winds of my youth.) This house, as I see it, is a sort of airy structure that moves about on the breath of time. It really is open to the wind of another time. It seems as though it could greet us every day of our lives in order to give us confidence in life. In my daydreaming, I associate these lines by Jean Laroche with the passage in which René Char2 dreams in "a room that grew buoyant and, little by little, expanded into the vast stretches of travel.” If the Creator listened to poets, He would create a flying turtle that would carry off into the blue the great safeguards of earth.