The poem – literature – seems to be linked to a spoken word which cannot be interrupted because it does not speak; it is. The poem is not this word itself, for the poem is a beginning, whereas this word never begins, but always speaks anew and is always starting over. However, the poet is the one who has heard this word, who has made himself into an ear attuned to it, its mediator, and who has silenced it by pronouncing it. This word is close to the poem’s origin, for everything original is put to the test by the sheer powerlessness inherent in starting over — this sterile prolixity, the surplus of that which can do nothing, which never is the work, but ruins it and in it restores the unending lack of work. Perhaps this word is the source of the poem, but it is a source that must somehow be dried up in order to become a spring. For the poet — the one who writes, the “creator” — could never derive the work from the essential lack of work. Never could he, by himself, cause the pure opening words to spring forth from what is at the origin. That is why the work is a work only when it becomes the intimacy shared by someone who writes it and someone who reads it, a space violently opened up by the contest between the power to speak and the power to hear. And the one who writes is, as well, one who has “heard” the interminable and incessant, who has heard it as speech, has entered into this understanding with it, has lived with its demand, has become lost in it and yet, in order to have sustained it, has necessarily made it stop — has, in this intermittence, rendered it perceptible, has proffered it by firmly reconciling it with this limit. He has mastered it by imposing measure.

– Maurice Blanchot, ‘The Space of Literature’





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