Our Wordsworth Gone?

Posted: January 17, 2019 in Uncategorized

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  1. Tasia McConkie says:

    I do not think Wordsworth’s idea about simplistic poetry is necessarily dead. His legacy lives on through unconventional and “underground” poets.

    • I don’t know that Wordsworth called for ‘simplistic’ poetry, as that would seems to me childish and underdeveloped. ‘Plain and direct’ might be more to the point. But if plainness is indeed what Wordsworth values in poetry, why should we expect that from unconventional poetry? Wouldn’t common poetry be easy and unconventional poetry hard? And if Wordsworth values the ordinary speech of ordinary persons, why should we imagine the spirit of his work would be carried on by the underground, by deliberately unconventional persons?

      • Tasia McConkie says:

        I apologize for such a late response.

        When I think of conventional poets, I think of poets who use a sh*t ton of figurative language to overcomplicate things. So, I automatically thought that “unconventional” poets are those who are ‘plain and direct’ or simplistic: poets who are favored or praised by Wordsworth.

        No, I do not think we should expect anything from poets. Writing styles can evolve as the poet experiences different situations. Thus, Wordsworth’s values may not live in modern poetry, but I think saying that his ideas are completely extinct is a bit too extreme.

        I do not think common poetry would be easier to read than unconventional poetry and vice versa. Difficulty depends on how the poet’s use and frequency of figurative elements, syntax, and diction.

        When I was in middle school going through my scene phase, I t dove into poetry. During that time, Instagram was gaining popularity. To get to the point, I followed quite a bit of Instagram poets. All the poets that I followed wrote about their feelings in a ‘plain and direct’ language. I would consider them as part of the ‘underground’ because they are not conventionally known.

        I hope this makes sense. My brain is thumping against the inside of my forehead and my eyelids are somewhat failing on me. Pardon my spelling and grammar errors.

        • Spelling and grammar errors made on the fly do not bother me. You’ll see I make plenty of my own. What matters is that students show a healthy interest in class materials.

          I think one of the reasons more persons don’t enjoy poetry today is because they have been given a false impression of what it actually looks like. From an early age we are trained to treat poems as cryptic utterances whose codes we must learn to crack in order to understand and enjoy them. Wordsworth questions why this should be so. His thought is that ‘difficult’ poetry – full of all sorts of allusions to classical antiquity – is the exception and not the rule. Sure, classical poetry was full of classical illusions. But none of those were mysterious and in need of interpretation for ancient peoples. These names thrown around in Homer and Virgil were household words to persons back in the day. They would not have needed the help of a teacher or dictionary to read them. It is the more modern and highly artificial adoption of such figures that is aberrant.

          As we move to Eliot, he will, as we mentioned in class, call for the production of difficult poetry in modern times. His thought is not that we need to sprinkle our poems with allusions to antiquity for the sheer sake of being difficult. Rather, he sees out culture perhaps as Freud saw the city of Rome in modern times, a massive tangle of ruins from various periods, coexisting alongside more modern additions. If we are to depict such a city with any degree of accuracy, we must be familiar and fluent with both the old and the new. In a way, history is, for Eliot, a vast vocabulary of words from which we can draw, and modern life a technical means of connecting various words into meaningful statements.

          Hence, Wordsworth and Eliot recommend two very different types of art. While neither should be gratuitously hard. While Wordsworth believes simple language and stories can capture universal human nature in a form to which anyone can easily relate, Eliot will argue that only by overcoming everyday incidental emotion do we gain access to what is – or should be – universally human, the appreciate of art and aesthetic feeling. When ancient people enjoyed art, he argues, what they enjoyed was not what the art depicted, but actually the art itself. Just as a painting of a tree is not a substitute for a tree, a tree is not a substitute for a painting. And it’s the painting that interests Eliot.

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