Friday, October 30, 2015

... there’s very little that you ever actually need when it comes to appreciating and getting something very valuable from a poem. You probably need to be able to read and write, except that people could read poems to you; you probably need to know English, though you and I have probably had the experience of reading poems in a language that we don’t know and being very thrilled by their music and by a strong sense of emotion and pulsation that is in them. I don’t know any Portuguese but when I heard Alberto de Lacerda read his poems and I thought, these are very beautiful, and I wanted to read them in translation...

Do people need to know all the bootleg versions of Bob Dylan songs? Do they need to know all the different outtakes? No, they don’t need to. I think there is a wonderful bonus, repeatedly, in finding out how these poems came to be written, exactly what they may be suggesting, all the ways in which you might have missed this pun here because there was something you didn’t know. You might have missed some things that are going on in a line. I think there was a review of the Larkin edition [by Archie Burnett] where Paul Muldoon said, “anybody reading Larkin for the first time would think…”, but you wouldn’t read Larkin for the first time in an edition which had a hundred pages of notes. So it’s the difference between reading for pleasure, and reading with the pleasure that comes from study. Some of us get terrific pleasure from study—others, my brother was one of them, never read poems for study. He read them solely for pleasure, and that was great except he didn’t have the pleasures of study.

-- Christopher Ricks, interviewed at Prospect

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