“The Poetics of Space”

By Gaston Bachelard

  • “Imagination augments the values of reality.” — p.3
  • “…they describe [the humble abode] as it actually it, without really experiencing its primitiveness, a primitiveness which belongs to all, rich and poor alike, if they are willing to dream.” — p.4
  • “…the recollection of moments of confined, simple, shut-in space are experiences of heartwarming space, of a space that does not seek to become extended, but would like above all to be possessed.” — p.10
  • When your writing describes place, “the reader has ceased to read your room: he sees his own again. He is already far off…”. Bachelard does not try to describe his garet or his own recollections, and asks us to leave off reading the page and start ‘reading the room’ in which we sit. In doing so we evoke our own past, and come to understand the values of intimacy.
  • If I lacked a personal room of my own, I wonder what space – indefinite and definite – I would make my own?
  • Page 15 mentions a “rather high step”, implying that stairways are not always uniform. In case I ever care.
  • Within our bodies we retain a deep feeling and rememberance of the house in which we were born, or grew up.
  • “The great function of poetry is to give us back the situations of our dreams.” –p.15
  • Our intimate place gives to us a framework for a lifelong dream, a framework that is completed only by poetry.
  • “…childhood is certainly greater than reality.” –p.16
  • I am enjoying the importance that Bachelard gives to the places of our childhood. I relate to that. :)
  • “…childhood remains … poetically useful…” –p.16
  • The rationality of the roof vs. the irrationality of the depths of a house.
  • Did Thoreau’s cabin have a cellar, an attic? Did the pond serve this function, and the hills? What did H.T. see when he lay on his bunk and looked skywards?
  • “The height of city buildings is purely an exterior one. Elevators do away with the heroism of stair climbing so that there is no longer any virtue in living up near the sky.” — p.27
  • P.28 details Bachelard’s penchant for an image of a stormy sea to cope with trafic noise at night in the city.
  • The hut is the simplest of the “human plants” whose function is habitation. when we are lost and alone, do we not yearn for

    “…wreaths of smoke

    Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!

    With some uncertain notice, as might seem

    Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,

    Or of some Hermit’s cave, where by his fire

    The Hermit sits alone.”


    • <quote>“…in the silence, we are seized with the sensation of something vast and deep and boundless.”</quote> — Henri Bosco in ‘Malicroix’, quoted on p.43 of TPOS.
    • Phenomenology of the imagination demands that poetic image of inhabited space be lived directly, and not reduced to metaphor or simple emotion (p.47).
    • Bachelard seldom comes near describing actual place, forcing me to provide my own imagery – and this is entirely the point! No book ever gives me all I need to furnish a room; I must provide the extras, and these extras are all the more meaningful for my having provided them. The rooms of my own past come swarming in to fill the gaps left by an author, and make me feel more fully the intended image of this space.
    • The soft wax entered into the polished substance under the pressure of hands and the effective warmth of a woolen cloth. Slowly the tray took on a dull lustre. It was as though the radiance induced by magnetic rubbing emanated from the hundred-year-old sapwood, from the very heart of the dead tree, and spread gradually, in the form of light, over the tray. The old fingers possesed of every virtue, the broad palm, drew from the solid block with its inanimate fibers, the latent powers of life itself. This was creation of an object, a real act of faith, taking place before my enchanted eyes.” –Henri Bosco in Le jardin d’Hyacinthe p.192, quoted on p.67

    • The integration of revery into work. p.68
    • Vincent van Gogh to Theo, his brother: we should “retain something of the orginal character of Robinson Crusoe” in all our house. Make and re-make everything oneself.
    • We should never allow the image to be complete. “The imagination can never say: was that all, for there is always more than meets the eye.”p.86 Prehaps this is the story equivalent of technology ‘doing all’ for us. It is neccessary always to leave something for the human.
    • “Beautiful objects created by skillful hands are quite naturally ‘carried on’ by a poet’s daydream.” p.86. Was the beauty in the first place created by that self-same daydream?”
      • “The enterprise and skill with which amimals make their nests is so efficant that it is not possible to do better, so entirely do they pass all masons, capenters and builders; for there is not a man who would be able to make a house better suited to himself and his children that these little animals build for themselves.” Ambroise Pare, quoted on p.92.