Daniel Green criticizes one of my posts here. I'll have to think a little more about this, but off-the-cuff it seems to me he's confusing the descriptive with the prescriptive.

I don't mean to say that poets have to be popular or "ethical" in the sense described. The point was that, as I see it, the grand highway to an expanded readership - whatever mode of art or communication one starts with - involves an engagement with people's actual problems - be they practical or intellectual/philosophical. And that engagement is an ethical act, an act of empathy - above and beyond the technical matters of literary craft.

There can be and have been great literary artists whose work is not easily accessible - Celan, for example. But why are they considered great? Not simply because they employ an arcane or original style, but because by means of (and sometimes in spite of) their unusual or difficult style, they address profound human problems. Celan himself underlined this many times, emphasizing his special concern with the truth, insisting that he was not "hermetic", that his aim was to communicate, etc.

Daniel's comments about the (poetically) uneducated masses strike me as slightly supercilious or complacent. Moreover I don't think he's considered carefully the meaning of the distinction I tried to make (in various posts re the Chicago critics) between the craft of the verbal texture per se, and the craft of making empathetic imaginative constructs.

No comments: