Paul Valéry and the search for poetic rhythm

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Throughout his theoretical writings, Valéry insists on two fundamental principles: poetic rhythm is undefinable and yet it is central to poetry. Although his verse practice evolves from irregularity to regularity, Valéry insists that predictable metrical forms are no guarantee of poeticity, and rejects the Romantic model of rhythmic mimesis based on the cosmos, nature or the human body. It is not by confirming the meaningfulness of regular patterns, therefore, that poetic rhythm signifies; rather, the complex overlapping of multiple, elusive and unanalysable rhythms provides a source of questions to which the answer is constantly deferred; and that, for Valéry, is the definition of poetry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-175
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010


  • Valéry
  • Cahiers
  • Rhythm
  • Versification
  • Metre
  • Beauty
  • Constellations
  • Deferral


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