I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle. Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in it after all, a place for the genuine. Hands that can grasp, eyes that can dilate, hair that can rise if it must, these things are important not because a high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because they are useful. When they become so derivative as to become unintelligible, the same thing may be said for all of us, that we do not admire what we cannot understand: the bat holding on upside down or in quest of something to eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf under a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that feels a flea, the base- ball fan, the statistician-- nor is it valid to discriminate against "business documents and school-books"; all these phenomena are important. One must make a distinction however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry, nor till the poets among us can be "literalists of the imagination"--above insolence and triviality and can present for inspection, "imaginary gardens with real toads in them," shall we have it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand, the raw material of poetry in all its rawness and that which is on the other hand genuine, you are interested in poetry.
None but a few of us read Marianne Moore anymore I guess, but thirty-five years ago, when I contracted poetry, her poems contributed happily. She (and Auden) taught me it's not only permissible but honorable to be playful, was a strong antidote to Eliot's and Crane's and Schwartz's relentless humorlessness (at least as they seemed to the teenage me). Anthony Hecht (who is quoted in the linked bio above), taught her in his Modernist class, told me Moore was doubly discounted, first for being a woman, second for being funny, said she'd be forgotten as all poets are forgotten as all but a few poets are forgotten, though she'd be forgotten doubly faster and doubly deeper than her poetry and her influence deserved. He's no doubt right.
Schwartz's relentless humorlessness? Delmore Schwartz?ReplyDelete
I qualified it by saying I was a teenager at the time. I know better now.ReplyDelete
Yeah, Cervantes and Faulkner were not funny at 17 or 23, but they are fucking hilarious at 58. The hell of it is that I was surer of myself then than I am now. I get embarrassed for the 40 years-ago me.ReplyDelete
Incidentally, I looked up Hardy's Ruined Broad, and you're right it is dreadful. I imagined it would fit in a novel as the creation of a Dickens character who's impressed with his sense of aesthetic refinement.ReplyDelete