Sky’s The Limit… Or is it? About “Poetically Man Dwells”by Martin Heidegger

Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher who had great contributions to  Phenomenology and Existentialism. Even though his political choices were quite questionable, he is one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century. In our given reading assignment, he writes about the phrase “poetically man dwells” that Friedrich Hölderlin writes in his poem In lieblicher Blaue (In lovely Blue). Hölderlin is a very interesting poet from late 18th century. He was very much influenced by philosophy and it would have been very hard not to, given the time. When he was studying theology, his best friend was Hegel himself. So his background in philosophy created a new world for his poems. But he had a tragic life. Later in his life he was institutionalized as mentally ill.

In this particular writing of Heidegger, he is trying to unravel the meaning behind this phrase “poetically man dwells”. For fully understanding the phrase we need to first have a look at the etymology of the word poetry. Poetry is coming from poiesis which is actually the verb to make in Greek. Before going into the text, it is very helpful to know that Heidegger’s explanation of poiesis is a kind of “bringing-forth” occasion. Like the plummeting of a waterfall when the snow begins to melt. Or like the coming out of a butterfly from a cocoon. A threshold occasion: something moving away from its standing as one thing to become another. Also like the night, gathering at the close of the day. Given thought on this, the poetry in the article starts getting closer to “dwelling“.

This is a long one so feel free continue below!

The text starts to question “Are dwellings really poetic?”. And if there are poetic dwellings, then aren’t all other dwellings incompatible with the poetic one? Is it only possible for a dwelling to be poetic when it is separated from man’s historical and social life? But through questioning the coexistence of these two, we can actually conclude that not even they can coexist, but they also carry each other. Poetry is what really lets us to dwell. How do we dwell? We dwell by building, and building is a poetic creation. By thinking in this manner we can arrive at the nature of the poem. But to claim that we have concluded in something, we must use the language. Which can only happen if we respect the language. At this part of the text there was a quote that I really liked:

“Man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, while in fact language remains the master of man.”

Of course we can never be sure if Hölderlin had these on his mind while he was writing the poem but language and its relation with man was something he studied and thought about.

As the poem goes:

Full of merit, yet poetically,man

Dwells on this earth.

On “this” earth is emphasized to get rid of possible misinterpretations that poetic dwellings snatch man away from the earth. Because poetry is something from the world of fantasy. But actually, it is something that brings the unknown in the fantasy, to reality. Poetry combines the darkness of the imaginary, the “alien” with the bright appearance of the heavenly. Like glancing up at the sky. The glance passes aloft toward the sky but it is still something of the earth. This glance spans the between of the sky and the earth. It was around these parts I started to see the connection between our assignment in the studio based on the analysis in Tuz Gölü and the text.

The writer later gave great importance to “measuring”. The upward looking experience that I’ve talked about is actually an authentic* way of man measuring himself against the endless sky, or as said in the poem the “godhead”. Just like the feeling of smallness we had in Tuz Gölü under a massive, unreachable sky.

“For man dwells by spanning the ‘on the earth’ and the ‘beneath the sky’. This ‘on’ and ‘beneath’ belong together.”

Just like the opposing above and below belonging to each other; he sees contrasting things as a whole. Like when we are stating a notion of being “same” we are thinking “difference”. Or like he puts it “For a man to be blind, he must remain a being nature endowed with sight. A piece of wood can never go blind.” And here we find an exit door to the main dilemma of the dwelling being poetic or not:

“For dwelling can be unpoetic only because it is in essence poetic.”

So according to Heidegger, dwelling is poetry, and poetry is an authentic measure-taking.

*Here’s probably one of the weirdest videos I’ve watched that explains Heidegger’s main philosophy and this authenticity idea: Heidegger in the kitchen

Actual footage of me reading & writing this.


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