Tuesday, June 13, 2006

 

Speaking of Poetry - Stanley Kunitz

When the poet Stanley Kunitz died at 100 last month, Michael Gushue sent me a brief essay Kunitz had written, "Speaking of Poetry," which, in my crazy life, I only just read this morning. A passage:

"In an age defined by its modes of production, where everybody tends to be a specialist of sorts, the artist ideally is that rarity, a whole person making a whole thing. Poetry, it cannot be denied, requires a mastery of craft, but it is more than a playground for technicians. The craft that I admire most manifests itself not as an aggregate of linguistic or prosodic skills, but as a form of spiritual testimony, the sign of the inviolable self consolidated against the enemies within and without that would corrupt or destroy human pride and dignity. It disturbs me that twentieth century American poets seem largely reconciled to being relegated to the classroom-practically the only habitat in which most of us are conditioned to feel secure. It would be healthier if we could locate ourselves in the thick of life, at every intersection where values and meanings cross, caught in the dangerous traffic between self and universe."

Poetry = the sign of the inviolable self consolidated against the enemies within and without that would corrupt or destroy human pride and dignity. I love that.

Or, as Adrienne Rich is quoted as saying in Points of Departure: International Writers on Writing and Politics:

"This is the work I see for us now: to insist in our art on the depth and complexity of our lives, to keep on creating the account of our lives, in poems and stories and scripts and essays and memoirs that are as rich and strange as we are ourselves. Never to bend toward or consent to be rewarded for trivializing ourselves, our people, or each other." [Italics added.]

Yes.

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