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My Sovereignty

自由的精神就是对自己是否正确不是很有把握的精神。——哈耶克

 
 
 

日志

 
 

NOVEMBER 17, 1987  

2016-05-04 14:53:34|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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I try to read contemporary American poetry conscientiously. It's understandable that where there are thousands of poets the overwhelming majority cannot be worth very much, though they provide an incentive and nourishment for the few, just a handful; it's the same everywhere. Something similar is happening in modern painting and the results are similar, too, because The paintings afford little pleasure.

One can say about these poets that their technique is first-rate but that They have nothing to write about. Their life experience shows through every line of verse; it is the life of lecturers on university campuses or in high schools and what they describe most frequently is their family-life complicationstheir own or heard about in the neighborhood bar. It is a

common, monotonous reality, free of historical earthquakes at most, it includes one or two earthquakes, in a literal sense. Nothing drives them to leap like salmon confronting an obstacle. Precisely that, this having nothing to write about is, in my opinion, quite a universal problem to be studied.

Oscar Milosz trained me to dislike contemporary French poetry in 1934- 35, accusing it of noting down skin-deep impressions; that is, of a passivity of perception. Half a century later, I think he was right. I may once have mentioned, unfairly, my sensitivity to Paul Valery, when it is Blaise Cendrars and Guillaume Apollinaire who deserve my homage. But there's little to be gained from the later writers. Either theres a leap or there isnt; that great poem of compassion for the modem metropolis, Cendrarss Easter in New York was a leap. It dates from 1912.

Our timidity in the face of incomprehensible sentences and violated syntax gets in the way of evaluation. Many incomprehensible poems and paintings turned out to be exceptional works of art; thats why people are afraid. For my own use, I simply say, I dont understand, and I dont worry about a given poets rating on the literary stock exchange. He doesnt speak to me, I dont understand, he bores me, and thats the end of it. I dont have time to dig deep. I assume that there are many levels of incomprehension and that mine is sufficiently refined. Somehow, rejecting a great many poems because of their incomprehensibility has not hurt me, although it's a delicate matter and our profession does not like to admit aloud to such simple criteria, so as not to embolden ordinary people.

Who can guess what convoluted nonsense may be brewing in the minds of our fellow men, sometimes along with deep intuitions? In poetry, various hallucinations have earned the right of citizenship ever since the control of logic disappeared; that is the price paid for novelty, but also, because of it, it is difficult to draw the boundary between exceptional and inferior poetry.

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