Sunday, February 12, 2012

I've finished Michael Hamburger's 'The Truth of Poetry'. Here are some quotes from the second-half of the book.
"In art the man is silent and the image speaks" Pasternak
"The duende wounds and the tendency of that wound, which never closes, distinguishes the creative man" Lorca 
"A poetic image is always a transference of meaning" Lorca
"Two conditions are neccesary to give life to an image: form and range of development: a cerebral nucleus and the perspective around it" Lorca
"Most 'ordinary people' turn to poetry not for bread, but for cream cakes, if they turn to it at all" Michael Hamburger
"People often repeat that English poetry 'begins with a flea and ends with God'. To that I reply that French poetry reverses the process, beginning with God, when it can, to end with love of no matter what" Bonnefoy
"the poem posits a special relation between the art of poetry and the phenomena of nature" Michael Hamburger
"one of the great criticisms of poets of the past is that they said one thing and did another - a false relation between art and life. I always try to avoid this" Larkin
"I believe that poetry is one means of discourse which takes one not into dream, not into clouds but into realities beyond normally observable realities" Christopher Middleton
"In that respect 'modern poetry' is no different from poetry of any other period, though the two poles have moved farther apart since Heinrich Heine's lines about the unending battle between 'truth' and 'beauty', 'barbarians' and 'Hellenes', a battle fought out not only between opposing schools of poets and critics, but within every poet who matters, from poem to poem, and from line to line." Michael Hamburger
"any successful description in lyrical poetry presupposes a measure of self-identification with the thing described, all Roethke's plant and greenhouse poems tell us something about human nature." Michael Hamburger 
"modern poetry proves conclusively that our kinship with organic nature can only be repressed, never eradicated. The more it is repressed, the greater its threat to the civilisation that represses it." Michael Hamburger
"the poet is not concerned with art but with reality . The poet is human but he is also something more that human - he has cosmic affinities... Poetry is affirmation of reality, no more, no less" Kenneth White
"The poet's material has always been nature - human or otherwise - all objects and aspects of our outer environment as well as the 'climate of the soul' and the 'theatre of the emotions'  May Swenson
"bad or mediocre poets have long tended to have a larger public than good ones"  Michael Hamburger
"If a true poet could predict what poetry he will be writing next year, or in the next decade, there would be no need for him to write it. In that sense every poem is experimental, or not worth writing" Michael Hamburger
The neccessary interrelationship of beauty and truth in poetry remains tantalizingly paradoxical, if not mysterious; for the 'literalists of the imagination' have been brought up against the knowledge that the peculiar truth of poetry may have to be rendered by fictions, or by what, literally, amounts to lies: and absolutists of the imagination have been brought up against the knowledge that 'it must be human'. The paradox alone remains constant and perennial" Michael Hamburger


James Owens said...

"Poetry is affirmation of reality, no more, no less" -- yes ...

I think I need to find a copy of this book :-)

Marion McCready said...

I got my second-hand from amazon, it came in perfect unused condition and now it's underlined and dog-eared all the way through :)

Andrew Shields said...

The bit about bread and cream cakes is worth keeping in mind when one wonders why poetry is "unpopular". Apparently, people want poetry to be Marie Antoinette and give them cake to eat, not bread.

Marion McCready said...

yes, it's a good analogy, isn't it?