And it is my firm conviction that a man can learn more about poetry by really knowing and examining a few of the best poems than by meandering about among a great many.
Language is a means of communication. To charge language with meaning to the utmost possible degree, we have, as stated, the three chief means: (1) Throwing the object (fixed or moving) in to the visual imagination. (2) Inducing emotional correlations by the sound and rhythm of the speech. (3) Inducing both of the effects by stimulating the associations (intellectual or emotional) that have remained in the receiver’s consciousness in relation to the actual words or word groups employed.
A: Books a man reads to develop his capacities: in order to know more and perceive more, and more quickly, than he did before he read them. B: Books that are intended and that serve as REPOSE, dope, opiates, mental beds.
Until you have made your own survey and your own closer inspection you might at least beware and avoid accepting opinions: 1) from men who haven’t themselves produced notable work. 2) From men who have not themselves taken the risk of printing the results of their own personal inspection and survey, even if they are seriously making one.
There is one quality which unites all great and perdurable writers, you don’t NEED schools and colleges to keep ‘em alive. Put them out of the curriculum, lay them in the dust of libraries, and once in every so often a chance reader, unsubsidized and unbridled, will dig them up again, put them in the light again, without asking favors.
The honest critic must be content to find a VERY LITTLE contemporary work worth serious attention; but he must also be ready to RECOGNIZE that little, and to demote work of the past when a new work surpasses it.
Anyone who is too lazy to master the comparatively small glossary necessary to understand Chaucer deserves to be shut out from the reading of good books forever.
It is a classic because of a certain eternal and irrepressible freshness.
Literature does not exist in a vacuum. Writers as such have a definite social function in exactly proportioned to their ability as WRITERS. 3
One reads prose for the subject matter. Glance at Burton’s ‘anatomy’ as a curiosity, a sample of NON VERSE which has qualities of poetry but that cannot be confounded with it. English prose is alive in Florio’s Montaigne; Urquhart’s Rabelais.
There are three kinds of melopoeia, that is, verse made to sing; to chant or intone; and to speak. The older one gets the more one believes in the first.
The proper method for studying poetry and good letters is the method of contemporary biologists, that is careful first-hand examination of the matter, and continual COMPARISON of one ‘slide’ or specimen with another.
Good writers are those who keep the language efficient. That is to say, keep it accurate, keep it clear. It doesn’t matter whether the good writer wants to be useful, or whether the bad writer wants to do harm.
THE READER’S AMBITION may be mediocre, and the ambitions of no two readers will be identical. The teacher can only aim his instruction at those who most want to learn, but he can at any rate start them with an ‘appetizer,’ he can at least hand them a printed list of the things to be learned in literature, or in a given section thereof.
It doesn’t, in our contemporary world, so much matter where you begin the examination of a subject, so long as you keep on until you get round again to your starting-point. As it were, you start on a sphere, or a cube; you must keep on until you have seen it from all sides. Or if you think of your subject as a stool or table, you must keep on until it has three legs and wills stand up, or four legs and won’t tip over too easily.
—Ezra Pound, The ABC of Reading