Tag Archives: literary criticism

One Must Separate the Creator From His Creation

My friend, Brian drew this recent article in the Telegraph to my attention https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/05/22/hot-handel-royal-academy-music-could-dump-artefacts-composer/.

In “Too Hot to Handel”, the Telegraph reports that the Royal Academy of Music is considering disposing of artifacts associated with the composer, due to Handel having invested in the slave trade. It also mentions that Mozart is being reviewed due to his father Leopold having been hosted by those involved in the slave trade during his visit to England.

I have always been of the view that one should consider a work of art (whether music, literature or painting) on it’s own merits. It matters not whether the author was a person of virtue or a disreputable reprobate. If there artistic creation is sublime, then that is what it is.

Slavery was (and remains) an abhorrent practice. However to state this fact is irrelevant when considering the value of Handel (or any other creative person’s work). Of course one may pause when listening to the Messiah and ponder on how a man who could produce such sublime music could have profited from human misery. But, in the end beautiful music remains beautiful music.

One must also view Handel in the context of his time. Many people participated in slavery either as investors or as sailors who brought human cargoes from Africa. It was (and remains) an abominable trade, but whilst condemning past men may give us a feeling of moral superiority, it does not aid our understanding of Handel’s work.

One of my favourite poets (probably my favourite), is Ernest Christopher Dowson. He lived a decadent life and died at the age of 32. During his career he spent much time in the arms of prostitutes and this contributed to some of his most moving verse, including Cynara, https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2011/mar/14/non-sum-qualis-cynarae-dowson.

I have no interest in what consenting adults choose to do in private, and this view extends to those who consort with the world’s oldest profession. However, even if one holds that those who patronise prostitutes (as Dowson did) are immoral persons who exploit the vulnerable, it is important to judge the worth of an artistic creation on it’s own merits and (so far as is humanly possible) to separate the creator from his creation.

As always I would be interested in the views of my readers.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud and Literary Criticism

Let me begin by saying that Wordsworth’s I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud is not one of my favourite poems. It is a pleasant piece of writing. It does not, however, resonate with me as much as does the poet’s The Solitary Reaper.

I am always a little wary of dissecting the work of poets. Many a dead poet would, I feel sure turn in his or her grave where they to hear literary critics discussing their work.

I don’t know whether Wordsworth would be amused or irritated by this video in which his I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud is dissected from a Marxist perspective, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnVAPhHvWek.

In summary, the Marxist critique of the poem is as follows. Wordsworth had the leisure to lie upon his couch “in vacant or in pensive mood”. To possess such leisure one must be wealthy. In addition the poet does not engage with the social ills of his time. Rather he retreats into his own private enjoyment of nature. At bottom the poem is, to the Marxist critic a selfish piece of writing, because it is about the poet’s private enjoyment of nature and does not engage with the public realm.

One major problem with this perspective is that by making the poem public Wordsworth brought (and continues to bring) pleasure to countless numbers of people. To share one’s poetry is, arguably an act of altruism because, as already stated, it has the potential to bring great pleasure to those who enjoy that particular art form. Indeed it can also be contended that when a poem is out in the public domain the poet (or any other creative person) lays themselves open to criticism, some of which can be extremely harsh. For a creative person to step out of the private realm and risk (in the most extreme case) public ridicule is therefore a brave and unselfish act.

In its most extreme form this Marxist view of art leads to a society where men and women on tractors are glorified, whilst art which engages with issues not to the taste of the governing Marxist elite (such as poems about nature) are side lined or, in the worst case scenario their creators are punished as class traitors.

There are, of course Marxists who write about nature, romantic love and other issues not connected with the workings of the market economy. When such poets pen their work, are they guilty of the same sin as Wordsworth – of not engaging with society?

Although, as stated at the beginning of this post, I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud is not amongst my favourite poems, it is a pleasant piece of writing and does not deserve to be misinterpreted in this manner.

For anyone who is interested in learning more about the Marxist criticism of literature, and those who oppose it, there is a very good debate between the late philosopher Professor Roger Scruton and the Marxist literary critic Terry Eagleton. To watch the debate please follow this link, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOdMBDOj4ec

The Importance Of Book Reviews

A post by Chris Graham, (AKA The Story Reading Ape), on the importance of leaving reviews, https://wp.me/p3mGq7-yfz.

I am always grateful when a reader takes the time to leave a review of one of my books on Amazon, Goodreads or their own website.

It gave me tremendous pleasure when, during Christmas 2019, a reader contacted me by email and told me that she had enjoyed my “Selected Poems”, and that I had inspired her to write. So, yes, reviews are important to authors.

Poetry is Pointless

A highly controversial article in which the author argues that “poetry is pointless”.

“To summarise, poetry can offer nothing music or books cannot. It is less creative and analysed to a point of mind-numbing repetitiveness. Poetry is extremely
boring and one dimensional and it often comes across as confusing and obscure. It does not carry the same complexity as music and is unenjoyable for most
audiences. Poetry in contemporary society merely a forgotten relic of Shakespearean times”. (https://medium.com/@diofer225/poetry-is-pointless-46b08731e95a)

As a poet, I disagree profoundly with the contention that “poetry is pointless”. However, I think the author of this diatribe against poetry has a point when he states that children can come to dislike poetry owing to them being forced to analyse poems. Whilst I firmly believe that the analysis of poetry is valuable, if such analysis is done in the wrong manner (I.E. the student being told that the poem has only one meaning, and that his/her own perspective on the poem is irrelevent) then I can completely understand why students are put off poetry. Students should be encouraged to furnish their own perspectives on poetry (and, of course back these up with evidence), thereby enhancing both their interest in poetry and their ability to think critically.

As for the view that poetry is less complex than music, anyone who has read “The Wasteland” knows this perspective for the nonsense that it patently is. The truth is that both music and poetry can be complex, but neither art form is necessarily so.

I am amused by the author’s view that poetry can offer nothing which books can not. Does he not know that many poems are printed in books!

In conclusion, ultimately the author of the article dislikes poetry and in support of his/her anti-poetry stance picks a few articles which, he/she claims, support his perspective. The article is more a diatribe against poetry rather than a serious piece of argumentation.

When A Literary Critic Named Lee

When a literary critic named Lee
Came round to mine for tea,
I offered him some cake,
Which he failed to take,
And then he criticised my tea!

Instagram Poets

Having recently started an Instagram to promote my poetry, I was interested to read this article on Instagram poets, https://mashable.com/article/instagram-poetry-democratise-genre/?europe=true.

According to the article, Instagram has led to a significant growth in the number of young people reading poetry online thereby democratising the world of poetry. While some poets confine themselves to Instagram, others have graduated to bookstores.

Instagram poets are viewed by some literary critics as debasing/commercialising the poetic craft, while other people see the utilisation of Instagram by poets as a means of giving a voice to minorities.

I, personally view Instagram as one means of promoting my poetry. I began by posting on this site (kmorrispoet.com), moved on to ebooks and (later) print, and I’m now on Instagram. Any means of communication can, of course be used to post pap, however Instagram (or any other medium) can also be utilised to promote work of genuine literary merit. To me anything which implants in readers a love of poetry can only be a good thing.

You can find my Instagram here, https://www.instagram.com/kmorrispoet/

What Makes a Good Poem?

A good article entitled “What Makes a Good Poem”. I agree with most of what is written, particularly the below,
“Economy of language: In most cases, if you can express something clearly and fully in a hundred words, you shouldn’t use a thousand. Language that is concise
is more memorable and resonates more deeply than verbiage, which tends to feel messy”.

I have often read a poem and thought that, had it been shorter, the work in question would have possessed greater impact.

To read the article please visit, https://www.writingforward.com/poetry-writing/what-makes-a-good-poem.

Today is Author’s Day

On local radio today I learned that November 1st is National Author’s Day, https://www.daysoftheyear.com/days/authors-day/. I must confess to not having heard of this celebration until early this morning and being intrigued did a little digging which turned up the above link.

From the above, it appears that Author’s Day is an American celebration (it was certainly started in the USA). However given that it was mentioned on a (UK) local radio station, this celebration would appear to have crossed the Atlantic.

I would be interested to know whether any of my readers has any additional information regarding Author’s Day?

Kevin