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This report is taken from PN Review 130, Volume 26 Number 2, November - December 1999.

Robinson Crucial Lawrence Sail

A participant in a writing course approached the tutor with an anxious query. Following work on a poem, it turned out that there was 'this bit of lyricism left over', and the query was whether the tutor might have any idea how use could be made of it. This rather enchanting concern, as of someone left with an end of roll remnant from a bolt of one of Yeats's heavenly cloths, suggests a real interest in the economies of creative production, as well as a real ignorance of its processes. It could have been tempting, though probably not much help, to remind the questioner of what Auden wrote about art in 'New Year Letter':

           ... it presents
Already lived experience
Through a convention that creates
Autonomous completed states

One of Auden's own notes on these lines quotes the preface to The Spoils of Poynton, and seems to approve Henry James's view that what distinguishes the writer is, essentially, the ability to spot the 'germ', 'the precious particle' of a story which, encountered in real life and recognised by the imagination, is all that is needed for the artist to elevate and fashion it into something of value.

Definitions of art and its processes have recently become hot issues, particularly in the context of education, with the publication of All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education, the report of the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education chaired ...


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