Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Correspondence

George Oppen, "Of Being Numerous":
To talk of the house and the neighborhood and the docks

And it is not 'art'
And John Cowper Powys, A Glastonbury Romance:
"What's poetry got to do with taking sides? Poetry is an art."

"Oh, don't use that word, Ned! If you'd heard what I've heard—the talk—the affectations—the boredom—"

"But isn't it an art?"

Her reply was almost screamed at him.

"No! It isn't! It's Poetry. Poetry's something entirely different. Oh, I know I'm right, Ned! If you go and get hold of this horrible modern idea that poetry is an art, I don't know what—" She stopped and clasped her hands behind her back.

"Well, anyway, Lady Rachel," he said, "it has nothing to do with this Glastonbury quarrel between Geard and Crow."

"It has. It has everything to do with it! Can't you feel, Ned, as we stand here that this place is magical? What's poetry if it isn't something that has to fight for the unseen against the seen, for the dead against the living, for the mysterious against the obvious? Poetry always takes sides. It's the only Lost Cause we've got left! It fights for the . . . for the . . . for the impossible!"
. . .
"I tell you," he went on, "I want my poetry to be a new, living, original thing. I want it to deal with machinery and inventions! It's all very well"—he kept flicking his ankles harder and harder with the stick he had picked up—"to go on writing about Middlezoy hedges and ditches and sedgemoor tombstones, but I want my writing to flow forward, where life is flowing."
. . .
He looked down at their log. It was not only invaded by the gorse prickles, but it was now covered by the shadow of a gorse bush.

"Do you say I could lift that log?," he said, "or do you say I couldn't?"

"I say you mustn't, because it's been there so long, Ned, and has all those funguses on it!" But she now gave him the first smile he had had since they got up from their seat on that log. He threw away the stick he had picked up and his cap after it. He bent down and handled the log, tugging at it first in one direction and then in the other. It only moved a few inches. It was deeply buried in the grass and hundreds of infinitesimal weeds grew at its sides. He knelt down, the better to get purchase, and tugged at it. It moved a few inches and then fell back into its bed of a hundred years.

No comments: