On the Fence

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"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 separate 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." (Eliot)

Before I go into the debate about whether or not poetry contains emotions (which seems to be a big topic with this assignment), I want to first look at the point that Eliot made about how you cannot look at a new author without remembering the authors that have come before him. A new poet may have great, new poems, but the poet had to derive their inspiration and even some of their style for writing from somewhere. Unknowingly, there are fragments and traces of the writing of the works of others in newer forms of writing from new authors. It is not someone intentionally taking someone else's idea or inspiration, but maybe just a new way of approaching the same topic or idea.

Getting back to whether or not there is emotion/personality in poetry, I am kind of in between in the argument. I can't say I agree completely with either side. I think emotion and personality can be shown in poetry. However, I think experience plays a big part into how that emotion and personality is expressed in poetry. For example, Sylvia Plath wrote many powerful poems that didn't exactly fill us all with a happy, feel-good-about-yourself kind of feeling. Looking at her background, we all know she was depressed and eventually committed suicide. She could have written her poetry as she was feeling the emotions she was describing. However, she also could have written after she had experienced an emotion. If she had written after experiencing an emotion, she would have had time to think about how she wanted to describe the emotion and probably would not have been experiencing it at the moment she was writing about it. This would relate to what Eliot pointed out in his discussion: "The poet's mind is in fact a receptacle for seizing and storing up numberless feelings, phrases, images, which remain there until all the particles which can unite to form a new compound are present together". Plath, even though she might have been describing her emotions, she would have been writing from the experience she had of those emotions. Maybe.

However, on the other hand I think personality has to have some impact on when and what you write. Personality affects your viewpoint and your interests. I don't think it is always present in an author's work, but I think it can be. Looking back on Plath, her poetry/other works match her personality pretty well in my opinion: they are mostly dark and depressing, as was she during some of her life. Also, if you look at Keats and his poem we just studied, from the background personality we learned about him from Austin, I would say his personality fit his poem as well.

With all of this to consider, I still can't say if I agree or disagree with what Eliot stated. The more I think about it, the less black and white I see in the answer and the more a shade of gray appears (which I have learned is very common in literature).

Go back and see the differing opinions about this assignment. 

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~Depth~       Here are a few blogs that are a little longer and had a little more work than usual put into them. Some of them are explanations, many are questions and thoughts that I had on a particular work... Read More

2 Comments

Greta Carroll said:

Haha, Katie, I enjoyed your entry. Your last paragraph made me laugh, because I can certainly relate. Really though, on a serious note, I think you make some good points. I tend to lean towards believing that one must have experienced the emotion at some time in order to be able to write about it. I agree with you that I think most poets’ works reflect their personalities. Yet, at the same time, authors do write about things that have never happened to them and those works can still be very powerful. In addition, Eliot himself is a very talented poet, and I tend to believe he knows what he is talking about…so who knows. Maybe, like you pointed out, there is no clear answer. Or maybe some poetry is written full of personality and some is written in the way in which Eliot describes.

Sue said:

Hey Katie, I really liked your entry. I do agree that we are always comparing one writer's work to another. But I also think that is possible to write and not produce the feelings or emotions that you are feeling. I kind of agreed with Elliot that at times writers write things to escape. Growing up I used to write stories all the time, I never had a boyfriend in those days so I wrote all about being in love and having a boyfriend because thats what I wanted and thinking back I think it was a way to escape the reality that I was living in.

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