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Defining ‘Geometric Poetics’ in Nelly Sachs’ Poetry: From “The Space of Words” to “the curved line of affliction”

In this essay the author examine words and concepts in the postwar lyric poetry of German Jewish poet Nelly Sachs (1891–1970) that are drawn from geometry, the branch of mathematics concerned with the study of spatial objects and their relationships. Sachs viewed language and texts as a space in which we can exist. Her postwar poetry is governed largely by a crisis of orientation, related both to the Shoah and to the Diaspora, which she confronts by attempting to find stability through points, lines, and shapes, and even concepts like Pythagoras’s “harmony of the spheres.” These are not merely superficial uses of common terms; because she views language as a space, and because she also makes reference to geometry itself, I argue that geometry is a foundation of her poetics. In fact, even her preferred mode of composition, the cycle, can be understood geometrically.

Author(s): Jennifer M. Hoyer 

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