Willie van Peer (Antwerpen/München): Poetry as Supernormal

Montag, 14.05.2018, 18.00 Uhr

in H11, C.A.R.L.


In this paper I will present a view of poetry as different from the narrative or dramatic genres. One of its central characteristics, I will argue, is its immediacy in terms of presentation, owing to its supernormal qualities. These qualities are grounded in biology, and I will cite examples from ornithology that clearly illustrate it.

In poetry, such supernormal qualities present a world that supersedes the normal, and thus requires a repositioning on the part of readers / listeners. They will have to leave entrenched categories behind, and engage in a form of disencapsulation. This is a task, however, that may be felt as daunting, if not overwhelming, to present-day readers. Especially in a highly secularized world, people are no longer used to confront such singular experiences of unfathomable depth and ineffability.

Our societies, moreover, are drifting toward fear-induced obsessions with control. And poetry, in the sense outlined here, demands the release of control and a personal engagement with the supernormal. All of these requirements may simply too much for present-day humans in western societies, in particular for the younger generations, who grow up in a highly controlled environment and without much challenge to entrenched ideas, categories, and arrangements.

In the end, however, the demise of poetry in our societies means that we forsake one of biology’s powerful strategies to challenge (or emulate) the current state of affairs.