Friday, November 7, 2008

Make It New, Already (redux)

Whoever writes poems not because he sincerely needs the help of rhythm in expressing his passion, but out of mercenary or ambitious intentions, and for whom publishing a book is like seeking a decoration or opening a shop, cannot even imagine what stubborn force of intellect and disinterested greatness of soul are necessary to resist every sort of pandering and to keep oneself pure and true, even though dishonest verse, taken in isolation, may be superior. Nor can he imagine how the nobility of this attitude takes no account of the extreme rarity of success, or he can delude himself that he has fully achieved it without even knowing what it consists in, because there is no one so sure that he knows everything more than he who knows nothing. [...] New! there is the word that, if it makes artists flinch, makes poets tremble, because in no art are unconscious recollections more frequent than in poetry, where they are favored by nature itself and by the inevitable power of sound, which impresses them indelibly on the memory."

-- Umberto Saba, translated by George Hochfield and Leonard Nathan; from Songbook: The Selected Poems of Umberto Saba (Yale University Press)

1 comment:

the unreliable narrator said...

Read this yesterday in Russell Edson's "Portrait of the Artist as a Fat Man":

"We are not interested in the usual literary definitions, for we have neither the scholarship nor the ear. We want to write free of debt or obligation to literary form or idea; free even from ourselves, free from our own expectations....There is more truth in the act of writing than in what is written...." [the ellipses are Edson's, of course]

(But as a wise man once said, you can't always get whatchoo want.)