January 28, 2007

Emotion needs to be held in check when it comes to poetry

After making a scientific analogy between the mixing of elements and the mind of the poet, Elliot states:

The mind of the poet is the shred of platinum. It may partly or exclusively operate upon the experience of the man himself; but, the more perfect the artist, the more completely spearate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind which creates; the more perfectly will the mind digest and transmute the passions which are its material.

I found this quote important because it is something that I trouble with myself. I tend to feel and write what I feel before I separate myself from the illogical emotional state into the logical rational state.

Elliot, ''Tradition and the Individual Talent'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Elliot argues that he does not think emotion is bad, but that when a poet uses emotion to drive a piece of work there is something missing. As I look back on poetry that I have written I begin to understand what he is saying. Often I turn loose a rampage of emotion be it anger, saddness, or joy on my unsuspecting reader. I'm sure if one looks back in the archives of my blog entries he or she could find a poem that is of this nature. I never understood that my poetry would probably be better if I lassoed my emotions, corralled them, and then trained them that I would probably be able to reach much more of an audience than I currently am. (Please excuse the bad equestrian analogy, my cousin is in the background talking about her lesson today.) Now we are all emotional. It happens. I think that Elliot gets that, but his encouragement to not let a personal issue get in the way of writing is sound advice. The question I now ask myself is if I did separate myself from my emotion before I wrote a piece would I feel like that piece is still worth writing?

Another interesting point that I think Elliot makes is that oftentimes poets are trying to find and create new emotions than the ones that are currently available. I'm not sure what he means when he states that when one is searching for this new emotion they find the "perverse," but why can't one attempt to break out of the mold and try something new? No offense to Elliot, but right on to those that are trying this. I know that people tend to write about love because everyone feels it at one point or another (I'm guilty on this account) and I know that people write about anger a lot because it helps to vent the emotion (I'm also hugely guilty of this one), but if someone could find a different way of expressing an emotion that might not be tapped yet sign me up to learn how. I would love to read about something different for a change or even write about a different emotion.

Anyway. Back to the quote that began my entry. By using life experiences to create the poem, but by almost stepping out of the emotional aspect of the experiance, the experianced poet is able to record better the emotion of the poem. I think that I will make this a new goal for myself to strive and accomplish.

Posted by Tiffany Brattina at January 28, 2007 11:27 PM | TrackBack

I think what Eliot is trying to say about emotions driving a poem as not ideal is simply put: emotions are not words, words express emotions but they are not in themselves emotions. Trying to use emotion as a driving force in poetry leaves that linguistic beauty aside. Something can be emotional and not literary (getting into the Eagleton essay), but something literary doesn't have to be dripping in emotion or completely vacant, for that matter.

I almost used that same quote about the platinum. I found it interesting that he chose the chemical reaction that he did since platinum, of all metals used for decoration and jewelry, is the strongest and least likely to tarnish. Kind of reminds me of Eagleton's essay and the canonical references in it... Meanwhile, I was wondering, if audience = oxygen and language = sulfur dioxide what does sulfurous acid has to do with poetry?

Posted by: Karissa at January 29, 2007 12:13 AM

I too took note of Elliot's idea concerning emotions in poetry. At first it seems so strange- the poet HAS TO put his or her emotions into the poem to make it "real", personal, and meaningful, right? After reflecting some, as you did(although not on my own poetry, since mine is just bad), I realize that our boy Elliot is onto something here. Why does the poet need to be feel overwhelming angst or love in order to write a beautiful poem that encompasses these idea? Literature draws on influences and experiences from the past. The poet just needs to look for a universal emotion, one most can identify with, and bring it out and recall it through the poem.

Posted by: Nessa at January 29, 2007 8:16 AM

Emotions do help and I am a very emotional writer also, but I agree Nessa that we should find something universal to write about because it is easier for people to relate to.

Posted by: Erin at January 29, 2007 1:46 PM

I appreciate Eliot's commentary on emotion (as an aside, Val brought it to my attention we've all been spelling "Eliot" as "Elliot." Star points for Val.)

I don't entirely think that one has to be openly emotional to write a poem - I think it does require a certain level of involvement and personal connection, but not the Romanticized extent some feel.

Much as it was asked (and ultimately avoided) in the film "Almost Famous,"
"Do you have to be in love to write a love song?"

Generally, I think people would agree that you don't have to. Does it help? It sure does.

Simply put, though - the raw emotion is exactly that; raw. Once it has been through the blender of our minds, the impurities and imperfections have been removed and the end result is a purified, though somewhat untrue, recollection of what actually happened.

Is it better to be raw or to be poetic?

Posted by: Kevin at February 1, 2007 3:43 PM
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