Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Poetry and Ambition - Part 3

"15. Sigh. If it seems hopeless, one has only to look up in perfect silence at the stars . . . and it does help to remember that poems are the stars, not poets. Of most help is to remember that it is possible for people to take hold of themselves and become better by thinking. It is also necessary, alas, to continue to take hold of ourselves—if we are to pursue the true ambition of poetry. Our disinterest must discover that last week's nobility was really covert rottenness, etcetera. One is never free and clear; one must work continually to sustain, to recover. . . ."
See "Poetry and Ambition," http://www.poets.org/poems/prose.cfm?prmID=3333

To me, this quote exemplifies Donald Hall at his best. It is not the Donald Hall who possesses only the very limited knowledge of white, male poets from antiquity. Nor is it the Donald Hall who implicitly attempts to make poetry the exclusive domain of the well-educated and wealthy through a narrow definition of greatness in poetry.

Rather, it is the contemplative, introspective Donald Hall who ponders over the importance of critical thought over poetry. It is the Donald Hall who laments a world that abdicates itself from the responsibility of the art form through increasing corportatization of poetry into, as Hall puts it, "McPoems." Is the Donald Hall who realizes that nothing is quite as it seems, and that it is the responsibility of poetry lovers today to take up the cause of previous generations and sustain, recover, build upon, unmask, and reconceptualize the past. It is what I'm hoping that this blog on Asian-American poetry is about.

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