Poetics is in genes: A manifesto

Keywords: poetics, pragmapoetics, genetics, self-reflexivity, CRISPR, biosemiotics, biolinguistics

The article reveals the commonality between poetics and genetics for the first time. Thus far, outside of cellular biology, attempts have been made from both (text)­linguistics and semiotics to describe the genome and its interactions similarly to language. However, the approach in this manifesto relies particularly on the poetic function of language and its underlying self-referentiality as its starting point. Poetic relevance reveals itself explicitly in its relation to the cutting-edge concept of CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats), which thematizes abundant metrical and figurative phenomena and terms on several levels: accumulation, regularity, interval, different repetitions, rhythm; equivalency, substitution, connotation; synecdoche, metonymy, metaphor, irony, implicature, paradox; palindrome, chiasmus, ellipsis, zeugma, calembour, polysyndeton; verses, stanzas, chapters, refrains, (identical) rhymes, collage, plot, poem, composition, text, hypertext, architext, orchestration; graphic imagery, symmetry – asymmetry; homonyms, synonyms, antonyms, archaisms, neologisms; words, phrases, sentences, syntax, definitions, quotes, palimpsest; cacophony, noise, harmony; self-reflexivity of the utterance and utterer. From this perspective, life stems from primordial poetics as the latter’s first level. It is a convincing enough association to apply poetic analysis to the free interpretation process of genomes by cells. A universal law of nature is that symmetry dictates design (including asymmetry): poetics is everywhere.


Arne Merilai (b. 1961), PhD, University of Tartu, Professor of Estonian Literature (Ülikooli 16, 51014 Tartu),


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