By Stephen James
What's the courting among poetry and gear?
Should poetry be thought of a method of authority or an impotent medium?
And why is it that the trendy poets most typically considered as authoritative are accurately these whose works strive against with a feeling of creative inadequacy?
Such questions lie on the middle of this examine, prompting clean insights into 3 of crucial poets of modern many years: Robert Lowell, Geoffrey Hill and Seamus Heaney. via attentive shut examining and the tracing of dominant motifs in each one writer’s works, James indicates how their responsiveness to issues of political and cultural import lends weight to the belief of poetry as authoritative utterance, as a medium for talking of and to the realm in a persuasive, memorable demeanour.
And but, as James demonstrates, each one poet is exercised through an wisdom of his personal cultural marginality, even by means of a feeling of the constraints and liabilities of language itself.
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Extra info for Shades of Authority: The Poetry of Lowell, Hill and Heaney (Liverpool English Texts and Studies, Volume 50)
For this reason, the denunciation offered in the closing lines implicates the poet also. He sees in the sliding cars the paradoxical impulses he finds in himself: a will-to-power but also an incapacitating desire for oblivion. This tension accounts for the ambiguous tone of the lines: they are at once full of ‘savage’ energy and continuous with the enervation they observe. To respond to such rhetoric as if it were simply authoritative public pronouncement would be to miss its hollow resonance, its weariness with its own idiom.
There is more credibility in Vereen M. 17 Behind all the gestures of selfaggrandizement and self-reproach, all the inflations and deflations of the poetic voice, lurks a sense of futility. ] (‘Two Walls’, History, LCP 566) Dying without death is living in a city. (‘Dissenting Academy’, History, LCP 567) Even when such explicit formulations are absent, the sentiment is often keenly felt; a yearning for non-existence repeatedly exerts its pull on Lowell’s poetry, straining against the incessant urge for selfassertion and self-validation that impels the verse.
27 In the process of speculating about Caligula’s motives, Lowell faces, as he puts it, his own ‘lowest depths of possibility’ (360): the poem is, at least in part, the record of a personal confrontation with the dangers of being lured by solipsistic and narcissistic impulses towards a deluded sense of personal importance and a callously dissociated relationship with the world beyond the self. It also connects in a more general way to other Lowell poems that consider these very dangers. Caligula might present an extreme case of the power-seeking individual but his guiding motives are not essentially different in kind from those of, for example, the President in ‘Waking Early Sunday Morning’: floating in his pool, he is, like Caligula in his bath, absorbed by both a physical sense of his own power (with hints of erotic gratification in his exhibitionistic nakedness) and feelings of inadequacy.
Shades of Authority: The Poetry of Lowell, Hill and Heaney (Liverpool English Texts and Studies, Volume 50) by Stephen James