SIOBHAN PHILLIPS Oren Izenberg, Being Numerous: Poetry and the Ground of Social Life. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011. ix + 234 pp. $27.95. n Being Numerous: Poetry and the Ground of Social Life, Oren Izenberg sets out nothing less than a definition and defense of poetry. The complete book shows why essay-length portions have roused such excitement among scholars of the "new lyric studies" and of twentieth-century literature; this urgent, considered study is essential to both. Izenberg is interested in the nature of a genre pressed to its essence by the necessities of recent history. He would shift attention away from the fact of the twentieth-century poem--whether taken as a specific instance of situated speech or as an ideal expression of transcendent self-reflection--and toward the operation of twentiethcentury poetry. Poetry can be a potential, he argues, rather than a product or effect; it is something we are rather than something we do. It allows one to recognize the presence of others and thus provides one with the foundation for social feeling. Writers of this art are not seeking "a kind of object" so much as "a knowledge or capacity" that is "constitutive of what it is to
Contemporary Literature – University of Wisconsin Press
Published: May 30, 2012
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