Poetry is a Hedgehog

from Hélène Cixous, Messiah (1996):

“One day I heard a very fine scholar respond to the enigma What-is-Poetry: Poetry is a hedgehog; and then I had a marvelous vision, I saw the hedgehog big as life with a soft skin like tiger silks and the hedgehog brought forth a high meadow that made for the earth red- and yellow-spotted corollas, and the meadow brought forth an admirable dead woman whose stories and tales are the cities and lights of my inner existence, and the hedgehog was in the center of the springtime like the spirit of resistance at the heart of great leaps of growth. As if on an elevator, the dead woman had gone straight up to that which lives again and she spoke to the hedgehog in the voice of a beloved. She spoke to it as “Ceres,” in a voice whose gentleness was stronger than any authority. Seeing that, I understood for myself the mystery… to say: “Poetry is a hedgehog” is a bit short. One phrase does not a lecture make. But hold out your hands, and into them I’ll put the word hedgehog and the word Ceres. Keep them safe, each of them will bring forth harvests.”

*the “very fine scholar” Cixous refers to is, of course, Derrida.

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