Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for April 15th, 2017

The overripe grape

leave a comment »

I want to begin with some poems and try to see how their particular truths are operative within the poems themselves. I know perfectly well that there are some readers of poetry who object to this process. They say that it is a profanation, that they simply want to enjoy the poem. Now my experience with such people is that very frequently they do not want to enjoy the poem; they want to enjoy themselves. Such a person is like a big overripe grape, ready to ooze or spurt juice at any pressure or pinprick, and any pressure or pinprick or poem will do to start the delicious flow…

True, we all want to enjoy the poem. And we can be comforted by the fact that the poem, if it is a true poem, will, like the baby’s poor kitty-cat, survive all the pinching and prodding and squeezing which love will lavish upon it. It will have nine lives, too. Further, and more importantly, the perfect intuitive and immediate grasp of a poem in the totality of its meaning and structure—the thing we desire—may come late rather than early—on the fiftieth reading rather than on the first. Perhaps we must be able to look forward as well as back as we move through the poem—be able to sense the complex of relationships and implications—before we can truly have that immediate grasp.

But we know that the poets sometimes seem to give aid and comfort to the ripe-grape kind of reader. First, this is because the poet is in the end probably more afraid of the dogmatist who wants to extract the message from the poem and throw the poem away than he is of the sentimentalist who says, “Oh, just let me enjoy the poem—it gives me such beautiful feelings!” At least the sentimentalist does not want to throw the poem away. That is something, anyhow.

Robert Penn Warren, “The Themes of Robert Frost”

Written by nevalalee

April 15, 2017 at 7:30 am

%d bloggers like this: