Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Exploding with Creative Energy

The Deputy Headmistress at The Common Room has been troubled by something on another blog that wonders how those who support conservative politics can also happily mingle with poetry (and, to extend the thought, with intelligence).

At the risk of boring with yet another quote from Northrop Frye, I'd like to offer this, from the very same page of The Bush Garden where I found the quote about weasel words.

"[Poet Irving Layton] speaks of 'the holy trinity Of sex revolution and poetry', and each of these is conceived as an explosion of creative energy against the inhibitions of prudery, exploitation, and philistinism respectively; a trinity more or less incarnate in Freud, Marx, and Whitman." (Letters in Canada, 1953)

(Again on Layton, 1954)
"....the ironic eye does not have free play; it is oppressed by a conscience-driven and resentful mind which sees modern society as a rock pile and the poet as under sentence of hard labour."

It might help to remember what was going on with a lot of poetry during the '50's when Frye wrote these reviews of Layton: there were a lot of Angry Young People doing the coffeehouse thing, Ginsberg and Kerouac and all that. But I think the basic thought hasn't changed so much in 50 years: some people still think that to be into the third part of the "trinity," you have to be into the first two as well. I think that's why some of the people in Mama Squirrel's creative writing classes were so weird, or really wanted everyone to know they were weird, or just pretended they were weird, because it kind of went with the turf. Anger poetry was good, exploding against things was good (even if it wasn't good poetry, it was Saying Something, right?). So do poets, or those who read poetry, have to have a rock pile to pound at? Was Whitman as revolutionary as Freud and Marx? Is that why Mama Squirrel doesn't like Whitman much?

And can Christians still manage to have an intelligent discussion about something like this without being called pseudo-intellectuals? Francis Schaeffer thought so, and so did C.S. Lewis.


TheHeadGirl said...

"ironic eye does not have free play" - that's great!

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