the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

quotes: woolf on poetry in modernity

Posted by rigorousm on January 20, 2011

Science they say, has made poetry impossible; there is no poetry in motor cars and wireless. And we have no religion. All is tumultuous and transitional. Therefore, so people say, there can be no relation between the poet and the present age. But surely that is nonsense. These accidents are superficial; they do not go nearly deep enough to destroy the most profound and primitive of instincts, the instinct of rhythm… Let your rhythmical sense wind itself in and out among men and women, omnibuses and sparrows, whatever comes along the street, until it has strung them together in one harmonious whole. That perhaps is your task– to find the relation between things that seem incompatible yet have a mysterious affinity. To absorb every experience that comes your way fearlessly, and saturate it completely so that your poem is a whole and not a fragment; to re-think human life into poetry and so give us tragedy again and comedy by means of characters not spun out at length in the novelist’s way, but condensed and synthesized in the poet’s way….

— Virginia Woolf – Letter to a Young Poet, 1932


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