Monday, July 30, 2007

Poems about poetry

Rob MacKenzie asks for lines of poetry that inform one's writing. This game deserves more time than I can give it at present, but I'll start off with the following from William Empson's 'This Last Pain' and edit in more if and when I think of them.

Feign then what's by a decent tact believed
And act that state is only so conceived,
....And build an edifice of form
....For house where phantoms may keep warm.

Imagine, then, by miracle, with me,
(Ambiguous gifts, as what gods give must be)
....What could not possibly be there,
....And learn a style from a despair.

From Smollett's Apologue to Roderick Random: 'indulging a vein of pleasantry' - not to be sniffed at.

Various remarks by good old Gottfried Benn:

‘Even though there was no great spiritual world to be discovered, I tried attentively to penetrate my environment.’

‘No question, the modern poem is monological, it is a poem without belief, without hope, it is a poem consisting of words, which you arrange in a fascinating way’

‘There is no other way to put it: works of art are phenomenal, historically ineffectual, without consequence in reality. Therein lies their greatness.'

And Michael Hofmann, speaking of Randall Jarrell but naming virtues I value in any poet:

'At its best, I think Jarrell’s poetry combines such hardness and leisureliness — something specific and the kaleidoscopic sweep and play of his mind upon it.'

The whole of Auden's 'The Cave of Making' is half-relevant. Chris Wallace-Crabb has a good appreciation of it in a recent PN Review.


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