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The Return to Silence

Cover image: still from the film Late and Deep
© Devin Horan 2011.

photo Paul - copie.jpg

and other poetical essays


Isbn 9782919582167 – 2016– 138 pages – 12 €

‘For nearly two decades (or perhaps millennia) Paul Stubbs has been engaged in the task of imagining what lies beyond the imagination…there is no guardrail to this kind of project, no literary guide or physical limit, only exploration.’
—Alice Oswald (The Poetry Review)

In The Return to Silence, Paul Stubbs’ first collection of poetical essays, we find him tussling with Baruch Spinoza, Friedrich Hölderlin, Simone Weil, Arthur Rimbaud, Yves Bonnefoy, and E. M. Cioran, thinkers and writers whose own struggles with silence evoke the very silence this author seeks himself to return to. Whether for the mystic, the philosopher or the poet, silence is life’s most inescapable accompaniment and, by virtue of what speaks most deeply of the ineffable presence of the soul, its purest. Thus each of these essays re-directs the reader beyond despair or hope, to reach an eschatological prolepsis, an anticipation of a life lived always on the extreme though invisible edge of the world; that is while thinking always against the contemporary thought of the day. And as such in each essay we find, after the demise of the idea of burdensome selfhood, Søren Kierkegaard’s ‘single individual’, he or she who is forced, in every century, to arrive at the most absurd and paradoxical stage of life when, having passed fearlessly into the unknown, and at the cost of their own personal discipleship, they are isolated in the presence of God and, perhaps as an eternal consequence, become even more of an independent force in this world.

Paul Stubbs is the author of three poetry collections published in Great Britain—The Theological Museum (Flambard, 2005), The Icon Maker (Arc, 2008), and The End of the Trial of Man (Arc, 2015)—and of two long poems, Ex Nihilo and Flesh (Black Herald Press, 2010, 2013). His poems have appeared in a variety of magazines, including The Bitter Oleander, The High Window, The Wolf, Poetry Review, The Shop, and the French literary magazines Les Carnets d’EucharisNunc and Poésie première. He is also the author of a book of essays on Arthur Rimbaud, The Carbonized Earth. His forthcoming poetry collection, The Lost Songs of Gravity, is partly based on the religious writings of Simone Weil and other thinkers.

Also by Paul Stubbs

The Carbonized Earth, a study on Arthur Rimbaud, followed by Perfect Little Monster, a play in three acts (2024)

An Anatomy of the Icon / Une anatomie de l'icône (2022)

The Lost Songs of Gravity (2020)

Flesh (2015)

Ex Nihilo (2010)

A review by Paul Sutton, Stride Magazine, June 2017

Paul Stubbs’ essays analyse the existence of an autonomous imagination – aware that poetry has, repeatedly through the ages, tried to free itself into its pure realm – even into what Stubbs calls ‘other world imaginations’. His reading and erudition on the writers and philosophers in this book are deeply impressive. Even more so is his restless drive to push their ideas, to make them his own and – ultimately – carve out new territory. 
Anyone familiar with his wonderfully unfashionable, but extraordinarily ambitious, poetry will not be surprised by this, but it is remarkable for an English poet to be so engaged. Frankly, this attention to what poetry can be is both inspiring and intimidating. I particularly admire his complete indifference to either social or political problems, in terms of that fundamental of poetry – the imagination. Obviously, this is an anathema to most critics, but it should never be regarded as equivalent to personal political indifference.

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