Some days ago I came across “the most ancient recipe for a poem”. I found it in a book called “Image and Experience” by Graham Hough. The book was gathering dust in my favorite second-hand book store. It’s a wonderful book; like a cold blast of common sense of common-sense criticism. Perfectly suited for our post-modern world, I might say. Pity nobody is printing the books nowadays… But I’m digressing. So, back to the recipe:
“The most ancient recipe for a poem (is) the poem in which first a natural object is presented, and then some reflection on human experience that arises from it, or is in some way parallel to it” Continue reading →
The first time those words appear in Brideshead Revisited they are used by Cordelia in a conversation with Charles. She quotes the beginning of the book of Jeremiah in order to express her thoughts after the chapel in Brideshead was left empty. The phrase quomodo sedet sola civitas -how lonely the city stands- is taken from the beginning of book of Lamentations, when the prophet cries over the destroyed Jerusalem; they are also used by the Liturgy of the Church in the office of Tenebrae to lament over the death of Christ. Continue reading →
I’ve been for a couple of months already systematically reading the Comedy. Even though it has been hard work, I only regret not to have done it before. As an Eliot fan, reading Dante and discovering the references in their context and not as isolated quotes has been very enriching. It makes a lot of difference! Continue reading →
How do you read “The Waste Land?” It’s sort of a difficult question, isn’t it? But I was asked exactly that question a few days ago. I started mumbling something while trying in vain to come up with an intelligent answer… Back home I had more time to think about it. So here goes a first attempt. I hope it can be considered intelligent.
A first answer can always be: “as you read poetry”, that is, enjoying its beauty -rhythm and music-, musing on the images from the text letting them flow in your imagination in search for meaning, etc… (the “etc” can be very long). But with “The Waste Land” this answer is not very useful. Continue reading →
After the posts on logopoeia and phanopoeia, I guess I have to finish with the third way of “charging” words according to Pound:
Melopoeia, wherein the words are charged, over and above their plain meaning, with some musical property, which directs the bearing or trend of that meaning.
For Pound melopoeia is not the third but the first of the three ways because the special relation music and poetry have. Poems were intended to be actually sung, so it’s clear they had to conform to a specific rhythm, event if it was just to ease the task of memorizing them. This property has been a bit forgotten with the advent of free verse, though “no verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job” as T.S. Eliot said. I think here lies an important point. Free verse cannot be an excuse to hide the musical limitations of a poem, it should be used when the poem needs it, that is, when what the poet wants to say is better said with free verse, because the choice of a specific metric will tie his possibilities and damage the poem.