Pia Hylen Abstract – NSU-DESIRE


I want to talk about poetry and desire, about

how desire is approached in poetry – especially  in metaphysical poetry, and use John Donne “Ecstasy” as an illustration.

In Seminar VI, “Le désir et son interpretation”, Lacan

says that the concept “desire” is rarely dealt with directly – except by philosophers and poets – and not by any group of poets either. The metaphysical poets says he, have a different approach when evoking desire, an approach which is radically different from descriptive poets, because they appeal to the fundamental relationship between the subject and the signifier.

John Donne is the foremost of the metaphysical poets and what characterizes them is their use of metaphors which is fundamentally different from their contemporaries.

The metaphysical poets treat desire by using a language that appeals directly to the senses – they rely on

a fundamental relationship between the subject and the symbolic, more precisely between the subject and the signifier.


I want to bring this illustration up to today by including some contemporary poets and look at they way they deal with the symbolic, the way they relate to the signifier in this new century, where the name of the father is slipping and the disorder of the real is moving in rapidly…..

But do we deal with desire the same way today?

Can our relationship with the symbolic continue unaffected?

Or is the approach of the real tracking us and catching up and pulling the symbolic blanket away from under our feet?

Does poetry let us hear a voice that is closer to the real?

And is the use of the symbolic braking up, loosing its sense – are the metaphors coming undone?

Have the metonymies been run so far out that the signifiers are becoming real?

……the garbage begins to stink and there’s soon no where to take it to……Burroughs and Bukowsky have shown us …….