Tuesday, January 13, 2009

To Clarify

I was thinking a bit more about my point in class (and in my previous post) that, for Victorian era poets, the Romantics, et al., words were like the stone (or sculpture) while for the modernists like Stein they were the chisel (or tools) and what I meant was that, for someone like Keats (to use Kasey's excellent example--and I'm certainly not knocking Keats), "'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,' - that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." But for Stein, the question might occur "what is beauty?" Keats tells us what beauty is but is that, really, all ye need to know? And, anyway, it sounds true but, to me, it doesn't feel true. My suggestion is that there is something deeper going on (buried in our biological selves) and that, perhaps, there isn't a way to describe beauty using mere language. My feeling is that Stein knew this, realized that you can't find "truth" by describing and defining it and, instead, used the tools at her disposal (words, syntax, repetition, etc.) to hammer away to create (or maybe find) something that, in my opinion at least, is every bit as true or truer than what Keats and eons of previous poets had valiently attempted. I'm not saying that many of the poems they created weren't beautiful, just that they weren't "true" (if they were, I doubt so many people would still be writing in the styles of the modernists and postmodernists). As poets we're all, I think, searching for that elusive "genuiness" or, at least, something that seems real to us. And, with that, I think my attempt at clarity has utterly failed. But you know what I mean.


Mo said...

I completely agree.

jess rowan said...

Thanks for posting this. I think it's important that you point out Keats' defining beauty where Stein (I agree) might ask "what is beauty?"

For me, I prefer the idea that beauty in poetry -- or any other creative medium, for that matter -- be presented as a question and not an absolution.

Lacey Hunter said...

Michael, Jess, great comments!

I think Pound, to at least some extent, would agree. His desire for poetry to create an interplay between image and sound seems to be another way of allowing it to pose more of a question of beauty rather then an absolute. As long as the tools (in this case words) are being used to not simply tell but rather to form/ to sing, then it seems to me that beauty is taking place.

K. Silem Mohammad said...

I want to argue a little more about Keats in class, but this is a good discussion.