Thursday, January 1, 2009

Invention is merely the enemy of poetry

"In my last letter I spoke of the tradition. The fools that read these letters will think by this we mean what tradition seems to have meant lately - an historical patchwork (whether made up of Elizabethan quotations, guide books of the poet's home town, or obscure bits of magic published by Pantheon) which is used to cover up the nakedness of the bare word. Tradition means much more than that. It means generations of different poets in different countries patiently telling the same story, writing the same poem, gaining and losing something with each transformation - but, of course, never really losing anything. This has nothing to do with calmness, classicism, temperament, or anything else. Invention is merely the enemy of poetry."

-- Jack Spicer, letter to Lorca


david lumsden said...

Coleridge called this passage from Drayton 'odd'

As other men, so I myself do muse,
Why in this sort I wrest invention so;
And why these giddy metaphors I use,
Leaving the path the greater part do go;
I will resolve you: I am lunatic...

Alice Shapiro said...

A word appears from the void, or the "not-looked-at" flow of words constantly spinning silently inside the mind. Whose tradition picks and chooses which word to rearrange on a page? The sum total of one's experience, including being an observer of foreign traditions, thanks to television, etc., shapes the choice. Invention then can seem a forced alternative to "what is." IMHO

mgushuedc said...

Say what you want about Spicer, his concept of poetry is anything but scaled down or eroded one.

Jordan said...

Yes, the medieval concept of auctoritee -- happy nothing new under the sun year!

Murat Nemet-Nejat said...

What I believe Spicer is saying is that the whole world literature is a single poem -in that sense timeless, ideal, moving in multiple directions, etc.