Saturday, 1 August 2015

It Rings True

Lee Harwood—who John Ashbery called his "favourite English romantic poet"—died on Sunday, July 26. (Some tributes have been collected here). In a 2014 interview with PN Review, he discussed how his notion of audience influenced his poetry.
It always has to be like a spoken language. Even though it may not appear totally like it. So one has always got to be talking to somebody real, first of all. The conversational tone of having someone in mind. Jack Spicer said the poem is like a stone thrown into a pond: you write the poem just for yourself, and then the rings go out. The first one would be someone you’re in love with; the next one would be your group of friends; and then if it gets to anyone beyond that it’s an accident. It’s put clumsily, but I know what he means. Once you start talking in that public voice, like Adrian Mitchell about Vietnam, you lose a humanity. It’s rhetoric, it’s speechifying. Whereas if you keep it close, keep it personal, it rings true.

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