Poïesis (Ancient Greek: ποίησις) is etymologically derived from the ancient term ποιέω, which means "to make". This word, the root of our modern "poetry", was first a verb, an action that transforms and continues the world. Neither technical production nor creation in the romantic sense, poïetic work reconciles thought with matter and time, and person with the world. It is also used as a suffix, as in the biological term hematopoiesis, the formation of blood cells.
In the Symposium (a Socratic dialogue written by Plato), Diotima describes how mortals strive for immortality in relation to poieses. In all begetting and bringing forth upon the beautiful there is a kind of making/creating or poiesis. In this genesis there is a movement beyond the temporal cycle of birth and decay. "Such a movement can occur in three kinds of poiesis: (1) Natural poiesis through sexual procreation, (2) poiesis in the city through the attainment of heroic fame, and, finally, (3) poiesis in the soul through the cultivation of virtue and knowledge."
Martin Heidegger refers to it as a 'bringing-forth', using this term in its widest sense. He explained poiesis as the blooming of the blossom, the coming-out of a butterfly from a cocoon, the plummeting of a waterfall when the snow begins to melt. The last two analogies underline Heidegger's example of a threshold occasion: a moment of ecstasis when something moves away from its standing as one thing to become another.
In literary studies, at least two fields draw on the etymology of poiesis: ecopoetics and zoopoetics. As "eco" derives from the root "oikos" meaning "house, home, or hearth," then ecopoetics explores how language can help cultivate (or make) a sense of dwelling on the earth. Zoopoetics explores how animals (zoo) shape the making of a text.
- Robert Cavalier, "The Nature of Eros," http://caae.phil.cmu.edu/Cavalier/80250/Plato/Symposium/Sym2.html
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