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This article is taken from PN Review 9, Volume 6 Number 1, September - October 1979.

The Re-Creation of Poetry/XII

An effect of the triumph of the romantic movement in the last century has been to separate the poet from the subjects which abound in ordinary social life and particularly from those emotions engendered by the clash of personality and the hostility of circumstances. A distinct bias has been created against the expression of particular grievances, which are supposed to offend against the proper attitude to poetry. This convention is as dangerous as the distinction which the French classicists drew between noble and vulgar emotions, and has a similar reflection in its effect on the poet's vocabulary-the erection of a literary language. Certain words become sacrosanct and are repeatedly invited to contribute, not for themselves but for the prestige they bring with them.

The same prejudice towards a specific poetic appropriateness accounts for the contemporary preponderance of 'nature' themes and imagery drawn from the back-garden of the weekend cottage. Under the pressure of this romantic theory personality and, still more, personalities have been squeezed out of contemporary verse.

This is partly caused, no doubt, by the extension of the audience. It is doubtful if subjective poetry (that is, poetry which is not communal, like the epic, drama or narratuve) is, by its own nature, capable of being stretched over such a wide area as that covered by the modern publisher. In fact, it demands an audience homogeneous in culture, and to some extent in its attitude to life, otherwise the difficulties of communication cannot be ...


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