When poetry and phenomenology collide

Jeremy Page

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In recent years several scholars have wrestled with the term “poetic thought,” suggesting in various ways there is something distinctive about the nature of meaning as it occurs/unfolds through poetry. In this paper I suggest, in part following the lead of Simon Jarvis, that one of the most fruitful lines of inquiry for exploring this idea lies in a consideration of poetic works through the lens of Heidegger’s early phenomenology. Specifically, I argue that one of the keys to understanding poetic thought lies in a flaw within Heidegger’s ontological divisions between substances, equipment and Dasein, as presented in Being and Time (1927). Through an analysis of three poems by Frank O'Hara, I argue poetry that examines and represents the physical world presents a problem for Heidegger when he suggests equipment in the world must necessarily “withdraw” in order for us to engage with it authentically. To address this, the term environment-at-hand is introduced to describe the relationship between artists and the surrounding environments used for their work. Poetic thought is here conceived as the point where poetry and phenomenology collide; where poetry reflects and enacts the fact that humans are inherently engaged meaning-makers. In this way poetry does not only show us new ways of looking at the world, which it surely does, but it can help us understand the nature of being itself.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-51
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Aesthetics and Phenomenology
Issue number1
Early online date31 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Martin Heidegger
  • Phenomenology
  • Poetry
  • Frank O'Hara
  • poetic thinking
  • Dasein
  • Being
  • phenomenology
  • being
  • poetry


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