Magazine article Humanities

The Breaking of Style: Hopkins, Heaney, Graham

Magazine article Humanities

The Breaking of Style: Hopkins, Heaney, Graham

Article excerpt

IT IS STILL NOT understood that in lyric writing, style in its largest sense is best understood as a material body. When a poet puts off an old style (to speak for a moment as if this were a deliberate undertaking), he or she perpetrates an act of violence, so to speak, on the self. It is not too much to say that the old body must be dematerialized if the poet is to assume a new one. "In art, in a sense," John Ashbery wrote in Reported Sightings, "all change has to be for the better, since it shows that the artist hasn't yet given in to the ever-present temptation to stand still and that his constantly menaced vitality is emitting signals" (187). The fears and regrets attending the act of permanent stylistic change can be understood by analogy with divorce, expatriation, and other such painful spiritual or imaginative departures. It is hoped, of course, that the new body-like the new spouse or the new country-will be more satisfactory than the old, but it is a hope, not a certainty.

I have been speaking as though the intention of a new stylistic body were a voluntary act, like filing for divorce or going willingly to live abroad. But there is much that is wholly involuntary about it. A new sense of life presses unbidden upon the poet, making the old style seem unsuitable or even repellent. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.