Thursday 5 May 2016

Is poetry important? Great poets say not. Frost and Eliot - stays and fragments

These fragments I have shored against my ruins... TS Eliot in The Wasteland

A momentary stay against confusion... Robert Frost in The Figure a Poem makes

It struck me yesterday how nihilistic are these famous self-evaluations of their art by two of the great poets of the early 20th century - Why should anyone be interested by, make sacrifices for, dedicate their lives to either producing or reading 'fragments' futilely trying and failing hold back ruin or something which only momentarily interrupts a state of confusion before being snapped?

Answer - they aren't interested and don't make sacrifices or dedicate their lives; and real poetry has been declining ever since (even as subsidizied 'poetry' and its official, certificated criticism is a bloated profession).

All this is bound-up with the mass loss of faith in religion (and Eliot no doubt changed his mind after writing the above and when he became a Christian; but the above quote is the one that is remembered) - because, without God nothing can be more than a temporary, feeble, and ultimately futile delusion of apparent meaning and order in a world which is in reality nothing more than confused ruin.


AdamW said...

Great modern artists recognise the tide of wrongness flooding the world. Recognising it isn't the same as knowing how to act.

Thursday said...

You can add Wallace Stevens, an equal of Frost and Eliot, to this group. He called poetry "the supreme fiction." It helps us find meaning, make sense of things, but is ultimately false.

As you say, no wonder people don't care about poetry anymore.