An Author's Assemblage: Brief Notes and Notices

The accumulation of posts to this web page serves merely as an author’s assemblage of brief notes and notices: the collection of informal bits of information, quotations, and observations gathered as one way to display a personal reflection of perceptions on poetry, publication, and related selections of material drawn from my perspectives as a poet or professor of literature and creative writing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

T.S. Eliot on Language and the Social Function of Poetry

“We may say that the duty of the poet, as poet, is only indirectly to his people: his direct duty is to his language, first to preserve, and second to extend and improve. In expressing what other people feel he is also changing the feeling by making it more conscious; he is making people more aware of what they feel already, and therefore teaching them something about themselves. But he is not merely a more conscious person than the others; he is also individually different from other people, and from other poets too, and can make his readers share consciously in new feelings which they had not experienced before. That is the difference between the writer who is merely eccentric or mad and the genuine poet. The former may have feelings which are unique but which cannot be shared, and are therefore useless; the latter discovers new variations of sensibility which can be appropriated by others. And in expressing them he is developing and enriching the language which he speaks.” From T.S. Eliot’s essay, “The Social Function of Poetry,” in his collection of literary criticism, On Poetry and Poets (Farrar, Straus, and Cudahy, 1957)

1 comment:

  1. I agree with that until he mentions the eccentric, or mad, poet as being useless. I think the worth may be necessarily less, but "useless" seems to be a faulty judgment on Eliot's part.



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