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The Poetics of Space
Cover of The Poetics of Space
The Poetics of Space
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A beloved multidisciplinary treatise comes to Penguin Classics

Since its initial publication in 1958, The Poetics of Space has been a muse to philosophers, architects, writers, psychologists, critics, and readers alike. The rare work of irresistibly inviting philosophy, Bachelard’s seminal work brims with quiet revelations and stirring, mysterious imagery. This lyrical journey takes as its premise the emergence of the poetic image and finds an ideal metaphor in the intimate spaces of our homes. Guiding us through a stream of meditations on poetry, art, and the blooming of consciousness itself, Bachelard examines the domestic places that shape and hold our dreams and memories. Houses and rooms; cellars and attics; drawers, chests, and wardrobes; nests and shells; nooks and corners: No space is too vast or too small to be filled by our thoughts and our reveries. In Bachelard’s enchanting spaces, “We are never real historians, but always near poets, and our emotion is perhaps nothing but an expression of a poetry that was lost.”

This new edition features a foreword by Mark Z. Danielewski, whose bestselling novel House of Leaves drew inspiration from Bachelard’s writings, and an introduction by internationally renowned philosopher Richard Kearney who explains the book’s enduring importance and its role within Bachelard’s remarkable career.

For more than sixty-five years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,500 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
A beloved multidisciplinary treatise comes to Penguin Classics

Since its initial publication in 1958, The Poetics of Space has been a muse to philosophers, architects, writers, psychologists, critics, and readers alike. The rare work of irresistibly inviting philosophy, Bachelard’s seminal work brims with quiet revelations and stirring, mysterious imagery. This lyrical journey takes as its premise the emergence of the poetic image and finds an ideal metaphor in the intimate spaces of our homes. Guiding us through a stream of meditations on poetry, art, and the blooming of consciousness itself, Bachelard examines the domestic places that shape and hold our dreams and memories. Houses and rooms; cellars and attics; drawers, chests, and wardrobes; nests and shells; nooks and corners: No space is too vast or too small to be filled by our thoughts and our reveries. In Bachelard’s enchanting spaces, “We are never real historians, but always near poets, and our emotion is perhaps nothing but an expression of a poetry that was lost.”

This new edition features a foreword by Mark Z. Danielewski, whose bestselling novel House of Leaves drew inspiration from Bachelard’s writings, and an introduction by internationally renowned philosopher Richard Kearney who explains the book’s enduring importance and its role within Bachelard’s remarkable career.

For more than sixty-five years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,500 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
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    Foreword

    MARK Z. DANIELEWSKI

    For you without imagination, who can matter-of-factly claim that you’re not the creative type—mind you, not proudly claim; for an imagination of ruin must burn beneath defiances against personal invention—then best put this book down and seek out instead some almanac of entertainment free from all such catalytic risks to a mind just mad enough to make out of one world another world.

    Gaston Bachelard’s book—published originally in 1957 by Presses Universitaires de France as La poétique de l’espace—has as little to do with the House, Cellar and Garret, the Hut, Drawers, Chests and Wardrobes, not to mention Nests, Shells and even Roundness (these from chapter titles), as it has everything to do with how our comprehension of space, however confined or expansive, still affords an opportunity to encounter the boundaries of the self just as they are about to give way.

    “The lock doesn’t exist that could resist absolute violence, and all locks are an invitation to thieves. A lock is a psychological threshold.” Yet despite saying so, Bachelard does not turn to violence nor does he keep the company of thieves. There aren’t even many locks. In fact it’s hard, over the course of even one reading, not to detect the warmth of that rare personality who unmakes a thief simply by making every article of interest available. Sit down. Stay awhile. Something to nibble on? Generosity of spirit abounds. Doors swing open. Thresholds offer little impediment. All are welcome. And in return, Bachelard asks of us only to dream. Or rather he gives us the chance to dream. For a chamber is no more a cage than reverie is an escape. Improbable discoveries wait at every border. As when Bachelard extends René Char’s invitation regarding

    Discovery—not “hostile space”—concerns Bachelard. In the same way that Steve Erickson’s Days Between Stations and Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day revive the sands of time as a medium intent on voyage, Bachelard gently addresses those settings we live in, and finally die in, with the lightness of why we live in the first place. Suddenly a chapter on miniatures offers a reflection on a hermit who while “watching his hour-glass without praying . . . heard the catastrophe of time.” The matter of prayer seems incidental to the anecdote, and yet throughout these pages there arises something meditative. Call it a calculus of emotional continuity or a music that only the grieving can know because they chose to carry on: what warms the hearth long after catastrophe has razed both hearth and home.

    The Poetics of Space is one of those books in the tradition of Edmond Jabès’s The Book of Questions, Harold Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence, Anne Carson’s Eros the Bittersweet, and Lewis Hyde’s The Gift. Whether portraiture of Sarah and Yukel; the designs poets inscribe upon each other; Sappho; the Kula exchange of necklaces and armshells, each of these aforementioned books becomes so much more: an indispensable guide for anyone set on becoming an artist.

    Over the years I have discovered that it is not uncommon to mention Bachelard and hear in return a sigh of happy recognition. I have sat at tables crowded with journalists, graphic artists, urban planners, therapists, sculptors, and architects, all of whom carry some fond memory of their first encounter with The Poetics of Space.

    The approval of architects seems the most obvious and at the same time the most odd....

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  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 4, 1994
    French phenomenologist Bachelard's classic study of the psychological affects of domestic space.

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