"Rickard A. Parker" wrote:
> I wonder what an "intention" means! One wants to get something off
> one's chest. One doesn't know quite what it is that one wants to get
> off the chest until one's got it off. But I couldn't apply the word
> "intention" positively to any of my poems.
You make too much a mystery of intention by beginning at too 'high' a
level in the discussion.
I intend this post to be a response to your words copied above. I don't
intend this post to be a new constitution for the united states (though
almost any old conglomeration of words would be better than the horror
we have now -- :->).
Of course you don't know _quite_ what it is. And poems are generically a
complex of words. Do you use the words as if no one had ever used them
before, or do you intend that the words be English and not your
invention. zo upi ombrmyh s mre eptf upi ytu yp [iy om s vpmyrcy
The last part of that paragraph was created by shifting my hands one key
to the right on the keyboard. Hence, for example, "I" comes out as "z."
I am pretty sure that (assuming you write a poem on a screen) were you
to write a whole line like that, you would retype it because it didn't
realize your intention. The mistyped lines I quoted from Binyon's Dante
are more central to my argument than is the discussion of Eliot's
allusion to Marvell, and the former are the basis for what I say about
Start with misprints and the question of whether a misprint distorts the
intention of the writer. Then we can go on to that something on your
Here's an example. For a post on another list two days ago I quoted the
whole of Guthrie's Ranger's Command, and in my text are the lines:
She said she'd go with me to the cold round-up
And drink that hard liquor from a cold bitter cup.
Now I am pretty sure that "cold round-up" does not express Guthrie's
intention: it should be "fall round-up." I have the texts of quite a few
Guthrie songs on my disk, most of them taken off the web but some of
them transcribed from listening to the record. So without doing some
searching I can't determine whether the error (if it is an error) was
(a) in my transcription or (b) in the transcription on some web site.
The important thing is to determine the writer's intention on an
either/or matter: he intended "cold" or he intended "fall." Only after
determining that intention can we go on to discuss more profound
matters. (A famous case of this is with Theobald's conjecture on "a
table of green fields." His "a babbled of green fields" struck almost
everyone as an insight of genius, though I think modern textual scholars
now are in agreement that the line should read "a talked of green
Editing a text is almost _wholly_ about determining the writer's
intention as to the words he/she put down. And the problems of the
textual scholar ought to be the point of departure for any discussion of
intention in poetry (or any other kind of utterance).