Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Works of art aren't eggs.

You praise a thing for being "fresh." I understand what you mean, but the word besides conveying the truth conveys a secondary something which is certainly false. When you say a poem or drawing is fresh, and so good, the impression is somehow conveyed that the essential element of goodness is freshness, that it is good because it is fresh. Now this is certainly wrong, there is nothing particularly desirable about freshness per se. Works of art aren't eggs. Rather the contrary. It is simply an unfortunate necessity due to the nature of language and technique that the only way the element which does constitute goodness, the only way in which its presence can be detected externally, is by freshness. Freshness convinces you, you feel at once that the artist was in an actual physical state. You feel that for a minute.


A literature of wonder must have an end as inevitably as a strange land loses its strangeness when one lives in it. Think of the lost ecstasy of the Elizabethans. "Oh my America, my new found land," think of what it meant to them and of what it means to us. Wonder can only be the attitude of a man passing from one stage to another, it can never be a permanently fixed thing.

-- T.E. Hulme


The loss of a language creates confusion or dumbness.

As life grows more terrible, its literature grows more terrible.

All poetry is experimental poetry.

-- Wallace Stevens


Philip Metres said...

Hey Don,

Hulme seems to have caught himself in a tautology--"freshness" is just a word but we use it (to paraphrase Fugazi) to describe that ineffable encounter with...freshness (the new, etc.)

Speaking of eggs, my daughters have a rare physiological condition whereby their digestive tracts can only tolerate fresh eggs; we eat only eggs laid (by organic free-rangers) that day. Let me tell you, the cliche is true about fresh eggs. Like gold.

What that means for art? ought to age better than eggs, so its gold must be hammered in.

the unreliable narrator said...

Adagia! Bout half of 'em are head-scratchers and then the reader moves on; the other half are put the book down in your lap and laugh in relief and gratitude. Like, "All poetry is experimental poetry." And my favorite: "Money is a kind of poetry."