If you look in the NYTimes article today, you can see the passage that
says, "Mr. Gioia avoided the evening's main theme, poetry and politics. At
a news conference he was asked about the postponed White House event
and said he had no comment. As for politics and poetry in general, he
said, when poetry is read "only as conceptual, ideological speech, it
diminishes its role as art."
It seems to me that is disingenuous because no serious writer, I think,
would endorse "only," and that makes the notion sufficiently trivial to
But I remember MacDiarmid saying "all great poets are political---Dante?"
And of course any list of poets who have been considered "great" gets one
into Dante and Milton and Dryden and Wordsworth and MacDiarmid and
Eliot. (I am noting men because I am referring to what was traditionally
the canon, except for MacDiarmid, who got omitted for many political and
not aesthetic reasons--Scottish nationalism, Marxism, writing in Braid
Scots, anti-English speech and writitings.)
So Gioia takes a line that focuses on the centrality of aesthetics and to
some extent sets that in opposition (as above) to politics. But historically
it is very difficult to have such a separation. And I am reiterating--because
it is important--that this tends to rest on the "only." One is not really
forced to that dichotomy.
Eliot was political, with a lower case "p," but hardly "only" so. Milton was
Political with an upper case "P" but hardly "only" so. Ironically, someone
like Adrienne Rich gets seen as political because the politics are feminist
and lesbian. But they are not any more "politics" than a commitment to
being royalist, catholic, and classical. So trying to imagine late Eliot
without those very political commitments would pretty much restrict one to
prosody and style. But it matters that Charles I spent his last night with
loyalists at Little Gidding. And the politics of the Treaty of Versailles
matter in "Gerontion's" cunning corridors.
Date sent: Mon, 28 Apr 2003 17:27:45 EDT
Send reply to: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
From: Pietros Maneos <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Pachel rings a bell backwards
To: [log in to unmask]
In a message dated 4/28/2003 2:18:49 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:
> a very specific kind of line about
> poetry, and that is going to affect his view
This is vague - specify what you think his 'line' is.