Modern Poetry: A Personal Essay

Modern Poetry: A Personal Essay

Modern Poetry: A Personal Essay

Modern Poetry: A Personal Essay

Excerpt

This book is a plea for impure poetry, that is, for poetry conditioned by the poet's life and the world around him.

I have not attempted here to give a full survey of contemporary poetry. There are many poets, and a few good poets, whom I have not mentioned. I am putting a personal point of view, but one with which, I feel, many readers of poetry will sympathize.

The poet, I consider, is both critic and entertainer (and his criticism will cut no ice unless he entertains). Poetry to-day should steer a middle course between pure entertainment ('escape poetry') and propaganda. Propaganda, the extreme development of 'critical' poetry, is also the defeat of criticism. And the mere slogan-poet contradicts his name--poiētes, a 'maker'. The poet is a maker, not a retail trader. The writer to-day should be not so much the mouthpiece of a community (for then he will only tell it what it knows already) as its conscience, its critical faculty, its generous instinct. In a world intransigent and over- specialized, falsified by practical necessities, the poet must maintain his elasticity and refuse to tell lies to order. Others can tell lies more efficiently; no one except the poet can give us poetic truth.

L. M.

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