Thursday, May 04, 2006

From Shakespeare and Co.

Just wrote a very long reply to this and then lost it due to a computer failure (damn!...should have saved it on Word). Perhaps it was my karma! :))))

Anyway, I think this will be briefer. I began (begin?) by saying that sometimes David hardly seems to pay attention to what other people clearly write. He uses so many words himself (and is happy to throw in so many half formulated ideas) that he will talk around anything--though not necessarily give satisfactory answers! In my earlier post, I said that Yeats rarely used archaisms in his later poems. The poem quoted by David is NOT a later poem by Yeats. Even if it was, I didn't say you will NEVER find an archaism in later Yeats. Yeats began as a pure archaisist (if there is such a word), but developed into something far more. We might say that Yeats is the last great English speaking poet to write in an archaic style. The course of his career took him from the late 19th century world to the modern era and his poetry is a record of that. The later poems that Eliot thought showed Yeats to be the greatest poet of the century, show no sign of archaisms. Look for example at the beginning of "The Second Coming":

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

It is very powerful indeed--but also curiously modern. This is the new voice of the Twentieth Century and neither Yeats nor we can go backwards from this to Tennysonian archaisms. Of course, we CAN write in unnatural inverted ways and even produce half decent poems (just as I--from a physical point of view---can write a sonnet). However, in the ultimate scale of things it is not destined to be taken very seriously.

Next point: Tin pan alley was often influenced by old archaic English literary forms in their lyrics. Agreed! However, a higher standard of quality and awareness is expected from a serious poet than a Tin pan alley word grinder! Robert Browning is a fine poet but he lived a long time ago and I can only be influenced by him today in subtle ways--certainly not in his inversions! It is, by the way, a false choice to suggest that the inverted version of a poem gives a better result than with the verb (or whatever) displaced elsewhere. The point is, that the music of the whole line would have been developed in a different way if we were writing with one eye on the avoidance of such inversions. We have a responsibility to write as we speak (though also investing special power in various ways).

Of course, this philosophical discussion has gone far beyond any one poem--though it was Rupa's fine effort that began it. Mine, was originally a casual remark which David picked up on--and it has gone from there. However, I repeat my belief that any modern poet who wants to be taken seriously must excise artificial and literary archaisms from their voice. If they don't do that, they may write pleasant, talented verses, but will never finally be taken seriously.

I will finish by admitting that sometimes I have doubts about David's ear. The obsession with syllables and da-da-da-da-ing is silly (go with the music!) and I note that he seems to have little interest or knowledge of the finest two English speaking poets of the last century (Eliot and Yeats). Also in his own poems I often note a lack of musicality and the presence of archaisms (in spite of all his prolixity). His discursive prose, when treating of the right subject, is often entertaining and I feel this is the area that he should concentrate on (an area where, to quote a famous tin pan alley composer, "Anything Goes"). I wonder if David has read Frederic Jameson, Edward Said, Homi K. Bhabha, Raymond Williams, Terry Eagleton, Eliot's criticism--or even Leavis on whom a thousand university syllabi were based? Without a knowledge of the tradition it is difficult to move beyond the mere traditional to what is original!

Final point: I will wait until all subsequent responses have died down before posting again!

PS--This is shorter and a bit different to the post I lost.


Blogger gautami tripathy said...


David found his match!

8:07 AM  
Blogger Jon Aristides said...

Well, Gautami, I just wanted to record my own point of view in a clear way. David's style reminds me of a nest of termites: he'll just keep on writing and writing until he feels he's undermined you by the sheer weight of words!

*like termites never give up tunnelling.

11:33 AM  
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