Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Kick of Joy in the Universe

"So when people say that poetry is merely a luxury for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn't be read much at school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language - and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers - a language powerful enough to say how it is.

Let's not confuse this with realism. The power does not lie directly with the choice of subject or its social relevance - if it did, then everything not about our own contemporary situation would be academic to us, and all the art of the past would be a mental museum. Art lasts because it gives us a language for our inner reality, and that is not a private hieroglyph; it is a connection across time to all those others who have suffered and failed, found happiness, lost it, faced death, ruin, struggled, survived, known the night-hours of inconsolable pain."

- Jeanette Winterson on T.S. Eliot


Ana said...

that article makes a darn good point. thanks!
(...and on I go crunching my teeth over the elasticity of the Dijon mustard while Faulkner lies on my work table as a naked temptation. Not poetry, but still the beauty of his language so powerful)

Space Bar said...

what amazes me is how often people need this reminder.

Anonymous said...

And C.S. Lewis said something similar, many years ago, in 'What is the Use of Poetry?':

"People who say poetry is daft are usually frightened of life, frightened of their own feelings, and the mysteriousness of the world. Poetry is a special way of using words in order to create a special effect upon the reader and to light up the world for him. If you're afraid of having your feelings stirred in the way poetry can stir them, if you don't want to see more of the world than meets the eye, if you're afraid to see beyond your own nose, then you will certainly avoid poetry, as you would avoid a lunatic."

This is a message that constantly requires restating.

Came here via Space Bar. Wonderful blog.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful Quote, Falstaff. Thanks for posting.

km said...

"Poems, everybody! The laddie reckons himself a poet!"

Cheshire Cat said...

Maybe these advertisements are necessary. Poetry is good for your health - yoga, vegetarianism, fuel-efficient cars, and poetry. Every day, in every way, I scan better and better...

Let's never tell them the truth. Poetry is a disease; I hope there is no cure.

Falstaff said...

annamari: You're welcome.

SB: I wouldn't call it a reminder, exactly. Those who read poetry don't need to be told. Those who do need to be told are the ones who've never really known it in the first place.

smoke screen: Thanks. My own favorite restatement is Williams:

"It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there."

anon: You're welcome

km: Back to the wall?

cat: True. But it's a much finer disease than all the other the modern mind is heir to.