Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Winters and Rexroth on Poetry

A few noteworthy passages. First, Yvor Winters, from the foreword to The Testament of a Stone:
"A poem is a state of perfection at which a poet has arrived by whatever means. It is a stasis in a world of flux and indecision, a permanent gateway to waking oblivion, which is the only infinity and the only rest. It has no responsibilities except to itself and its own perfection--neither to the man who may have come to it with imperfect understanding nor to the mood from which it may have originally sprung. It is not a means to any end, but is in itself an end, and it, or one of the other embodiments of beauty, is the only end possible to the man of intellect."

"The poet, in creating, must lose himself in his object. If he becomes more interested in himself observing than in his object, and still continues to write about his object rather than himself observing, he will create a mannerism but no image.... The poet who is preoccupied with his object desires a speech without idiom and a style without mannerism, that the clarity of his perception may not be clouded by inessentials."
And second, from Kenneth Rexroth's essay "Disengagement: The Art of the Beat Generation":
"The problem of poetry is the problem of communication itself. All art is a symbolic criticism of values, but poetry is specifically and almost exclusively that. A painting decorates the wall. A novel is a story. Music... soothes a savage beast. But poetry you have to take straight."

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