Sunday, 12 April 2015

The Invisible Poet

The less visible the poet, the more visible (and so often the better) the poetry. A week or two ago I gave here an example of a poem by our present Poet Laureate, and compared it with an extract from a poem by an earlier Laureate. Now that might have been unfair; it may be that the Carol Ann Duffy poem I quoted was not one of her best, and it may be that the Tennyson verses were among his best. I should perhaps have expressed my dislike, indeed disapproval, of Duffy, and my admiration for Tennyson in more general or abstract terms; the sort of terms a really good critic (which I don’t claim to be) might use. I remembered however that TS Eliot had said what I should have liked to say, and far better than I could, but I couldn’t remember just where he’d said it. This morning I came across it again, in his collection of essays ‘The Sacred Wood’:

‘Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality.’

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