November 25, 2008

Never respect tradition above your intuitive self

Read some essays from Amy Lowell's book of essays, Poetry and Poets. Some of the interesting ones can be read online for free (see links below) and so I will not excerpt from them but here is an excerpt from an essay called: The process of making poetry.

Amy Lowell, in writing about the process of making poetry and the role of the (sub)conscious arrival of the poem ("It came to me") writes:

Sometimes the external stimulus which has produced a poem is known or can be traced. It may be a sight, a sound, a thought, or an emotion. Sometimes the consciousness has no record of the initial impulse, which has either been forgotten or springs from a deep, unrealized memory. But whatever it is, emotion, apprehended or hidden, is a part of it, for only emotion can rouse the subconscious into action.


The subconscious is, however, a most temperamental ally. Often he will strike work at some critical point and not another word is to be got out of him. Here is where the conscious training of the poet comes in, for he must fill in what the subconscious has left, and fill it in as much in the key of the rest as possible. ...

Sometimes the sly subconscious partner will take pity on the struggling poet and return to his assistance; sometimes he will have nothing to do with that particular passage again. This is the reason that a poet must be both born and made. He must be born with a subconscious factory always working for him or he can never be a poet at all, and he must have knowledge and talent enouogh to 'putty' up his holes - to use Mr. Grave's expression. Let no one undervalue this process of puttying; it is a condition of good poetry.

I do believe that a poet should know all he can. No subject is alien to him, and the profounder his knowledge in any direction, the more depth will there be to his poetry. I believe he should be thoroughly grounded in both the old and the new poetic forms, but I am firmly convinced that he must never respect tradition above his intuitive self. Let him be sure of his own sincerity above all, let him bow to no public acclaim, however alluring, and then let him write with all the courage what his subconscious mind suggests to him.
There is much else to treasure in the essays, some of which can be read here.

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