[lit-ideas] Re: SUNDAY POEM

  • From: "Mike Geary" <atlas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2007 17:46:43 -0600

Good post, Eric, except that it's wrong. Well, not wrong, really, just not quite right. And what makes it not quite right is that you intimate that poets shouldn't preach. Well, throw out half the Canon why don't you? Oops, sorry, Dante, you don't make the cut. Milton, hit the road, Bub. Emerson, Thoreau, Kipling, sorry. Blake, can't use you, Babe, too political. And on and on. I do agree with you about Chaucer and Shakespeare (Balzac, I've never read) -- except that both C and S quite willing paid homage to the pieties of their time as was thought ought to be the role of an artist, so it's not like they were epitome's of literary disinterestedness. Me? I have no problem with a poet, a painter, a preacher or professor evangelizing. It's not what they say, it's how they say it. Who among all those you know who've contributed anything of lasting importance to our human culture was not evangelizing? As Auden says:

"Time that is intolerant
Of the brave and innocent,
And indifferent in a week
To a beautiful physique,
Worships language and forgives
Everyone by whom it lives;
Pardons cowardice, conceit,
Lays its honours at their feet.
Time that with this strange excuse
Pardoned Kipling and his views,
And will pardon Paul Claudel,
Pardons him for writing well."

Transtromer may well have been enlisting a narrative other (ah, but doesn't that kind of talk take me back to the old classroom), but who cares? Did he get your hackles up? Apparently, but apparently not in the same direction as mine. Yes, of course, he was calling those whom he despises: "greed-driven, murderous pigs not able to appreciate Schubert" -- and why shouldn't he as long as he does so artistically. It's all about Art, man, don't you get it? And Art in this instance is his spitting in all their faces to put out the fire of his hatred. How well did he spit? Now if you're of a moralistic bent, you'll probably ask yourself: should he hate them? I don't know that. That's his business. But I sure do feel his de profundis fury -- and I know what he knows: that there's nothing you can do about any of it. The only salvation is to sink deeper into solipsistic aestheticism until they can't find you. Or to take up arms and by opposing, become them.

Mike Geary

----- Original Message ----- From: "Eric Yost" <eyost1132@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Monday, January 15, 2007 12:15 PM
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: SUNDAY POEM

Mike kindly sends along a poem by Transtromer:

Annie said: "This music is so heroic," and she is right.
But those who glance enviously at men of action, people who despise themselves inside for not being murderers, do not find themselves in this music. And the people who buy and sell others, and who believe that everyone can be bought, don't find themselves here.
Not their music.

Schubert also has the most delightfully childish lyricism. Listen to the final movement Rondo from Piano Sonata #17 in D-major. Clockwork children at play ... with occasional big-chord interruption by their parents. Or try the Cambridge Buskers' (or the old Josef Hoffmann acoustic) recording of Schubert's March Militaire. Children in the empyrean.

There should be more Schubert played over the loudspeakers at Guantanamo, during interrogations, and of course, in jet cockpits during missile strikes on al-Qaeda.

But I digress.

Ever notice how some naive poets and writers struggle to put down people of action and people of commerce? They are denying a part of their own natures. The writer who always puts down "greedy, narrow-minded businessmen" is really lashing that part of herself who is a "greedy, narrow-minded businessperson." All blame rests with the self, as Epictetus observed, and people who go out of their way to deny any of the human types is probably to a certain extent involved in repression and self-hatred.

Transtromer's strategy here is to enlist a narrative other, with whom he can agree that business and military types are terrible. Those bad guys can't appreciate Schubert. The poet and his other, though, can enjoy the elevation that comes from putting the other types down.

Not so artists like Chaucer, Shakespeare, or Balzac ... who enlist all of humanity in their description and let each speak for themselves.

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