Sunday, 25 August 2013

The strength of Poetry – James Fenton 2001

“But for a productive life, and for a happy one, each failure must be felt and worked through.” (Fenton, 2001, p.6).

 “But in poetry there is really no equivalent for these intermediate disciplines. The way to learn to write poetry is: to write poetry. So we pass directly from the aspiration to the activity itself, and that leaves us at first vulnerable, because, looked at in a certain way, we have no right to be writing poems at this stage.” (Fenton, 2001, p.14).

“These are our first steps in poetry, and, surprisingly enough, we tend to want those first steps to be giant strides. We do not, as poets, start with humble studies, aiming to work our way up towards the grand canvas. We start with the large gesture.” (Fenton, 2001, p.23).

“In the writing of poetry we may say that the thing we predict will not happen. If we can predict it, it is not poetry. We have to surprise ourselves. We have to outpace our colder calculations.” (Fenton, 2001, p.43).

“But Lawrence is not describing a turkeycock – he is dramatizing the contemplation of a turkeycock.” (Fenton, 2001, p.181).

“It is the fleeting nature of beauty, Auden says, that makes it moving to others and ‘One should take it as a momentary thing. To become preoccupied with it means neurosis.” (Fenton, 2001, p.207).

“Readers of poetry divide into two kinds: those who, confronted with what appears to be like a code insist that they must crack it, and those who are happy to listen to the spell.” (Fenton, 2001, p.234).

“Auden believed that though we are under the illusion that we live and act, we are in fact ‘lived’ – unknown and irrational forces work through us.” (Fenton, 2001, p.245).

“The primary function of poetry, as of all the arts, is to make us more aware of ourselves and the world around us. I do not know if such increased awareness makes us more moral or more efficient. I hope not.
I think it makes us more human.” (Fenton quoting Auden, 2001, p.245).

“’To be conscious but to refuse to understand, is a positive act that calls for courage of the highest order.’ For him, Rilke was the writer to whom to turn, ‘for strength to resist the treacherous temptations that approach us disguised as righteous duties.” (Fenton quoting Niebuhr quoting Auden, 2001, p.234).

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