Tag Archives: Abrams

Justified Poetry

Why do poets feel compelled to apologize for their craft? To make an apology for poetry? While I understand that everyone has (acknowledged or unacknowledged) assumptions by which they guide their own reading and composition (aesthetics), do we really need to join the party of this-or-that aesthetic to write (and read) well?

Certainly, I have not written (nor read) well enough and perhaps a dogmatic allegiance to an aesthetic would help, but I doubt it. I am in a position now (in which I write seldom and read only somewhat more) that can not afford this kind of austerity. (March 21, 2009)

The Mirror or the Lamp?

After many years I have returned to reading M. H. Abrams’s The Mirror and the Lamp. I don’t know if I’ll finish it, as I’m (even now) slowly making my way through the first hundred pages. Nevertheless, it has brought me to this question: Why do we (readers, poets, critics) care so much about the origins of poetry? In the outburst of passion. In the method of memory. In the mirror of imitation.  Or, to put it another way, why do we need to assign to one type of poetry (epic, narrative, lyric) the status of prime parent? Of course, I understand that doing so informs a reader’s poetics or a reader’s way of evaluating what is and is not “good” verse, but is it possible to have an aesthetic without having an implicit (or explicit) allegiance to the chicken or the egg? (January 11, 2009)