Friday, October 10, 2008

Hurry up, it's time, please... to make it new!

See how many of the 100 most common words in the English language you can guess in 5 minutes... (click here or on the first page of Beowulf, pictured to the left).

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The majority of the following poems are to be considered as experiments... Readers accustomed to the gaudiness and inane phraseology of many modern writers, if they persist in reading this book to its conclusion, will perhaps frequently have to struggle with feelings of strangeness and awkwardness: they will look round for poetry, and will be induced to enquire by what species of courtesy these attempts can be permitted to assume that title. It is desirable that such readers, for their own sakes, should not suffer the solitary word Poetry, a word of very disputed meaning, to stand in the way of their gratification; but that, while they are perusing this book, they should ask themselves if it contains a natural delineation of human passions, human characters, and human incidents; and if the answer be favorable to the author’s wishes, that they should consent to be pleased in spite of that most dreadful enemy to our pleasures, our own pre-established codes of decision.

Readers of superior judgment may disapprove of the style in which many of these pieces are executed it must be expected that many lines and phrases will not exactly suit their taste. It will perhaps appear to them, that wishing to avoid the prevalent fault of the day, the author has sometimes descended too low, and that many of his expressions are too familiar, and not of sufficient dignity. It is apprehended, that the more conversant the reader is with our elder writers, and with those in modern times who have been the most successful in painting manners and passions, the fewer complaints of this kind will he have to make.

- From the introduction to a volume of experimental poetry: Lyrical Ballads, published 1798

2 comments:

michael robbins said...

I got 74. Does this make me experimental?

Also, this exercise reminds me of Ali G's priceless interview with "Norman" Chomsky (probably on U-Toob): "How many words does you know?"

the unreliable narrator said...

MAKE IT NEW ALREADY = even better than SCHOOL OF HUSHHUSH!