[New-Poetry] Three Kinds of Poetry Appreciators
sheilafblack at hotmail.com
Wed Oct 6 15:05:30 EDT 2010
I want to give a plug for a hard book--but one that does a great job of tracing currents or intersections of philosophy (Neitzche, Kant, etc.)
in modern poetry that touch on some of this taxonomy--particularly in regards to Neitzche's Appolonian/Dionysian division. The book is
The Extravagant by Robert Baker, Notre Dame--I think it's 2008; He was my literature professor at Montana and really the rare
and brillina critic of poetry...the book is very smart about how it looks at the influence of various strands in philosophy on modern poetry.
One thing it does (which i think your Dionysian classification could do perhaps a bit more forcefully) is consider
the question of pleasure in modern poetry--I guess I mention this because of your three classifications the Dionysian feels
the most generally articulated/least interrogated since I think, speaking generally, the question of instinct and/or pleasure is one that becomes increasingly
fraught in modernity-- or, to put it more simply, most people DON'T feel much simple pleasure in say a smiley face
or a kitten--or if they do, they are loath to admit it!
To: new-poetry at wiz.cath.vt.edu
Date: Wed, 6 Oct 2010 14:15:52 -0400
From: jforjames at aol.com
Subject: Re: [New-Poetry] Three Kinds of Poetry Appreciators
Bob, I'll have to read this more carefully later before I comment, but the
Dionysian v. Apollonian modes poetry was the subject of some lectures that
Robert Graves delivered at Oxford.
Oxford Addresses on Poetry (1962)
It's been a few years since I read the book. But I thought the essays were quite good.
Graves was discussing the poetry more than the appreciation of it. (Not that they're
unrelated, of course.) He missed the Hermesian mode.
The Romantic v. Classical divide is roughly equivalent to the Dionysian v. Apollonian.
From: Bob Grumman <bobgrumman at nut-n-but.net>
To: NewPoetry List <new-poetry at wiz.cath.vt.edu>
Sent: Wed, Oct 6, 2010 12:00 pm
Subject: [New-Poetry] Three Kinds of Poetry Appreciators
As all of you who bother reading my posts are aware, I'm fascinated by the different ways people respond to poetry. I'm also an obsessive explainer and taxonomist--with a full-scale theory of psychology for years under way. So I often try to divide poetry people into groups on the basis of their taste. My latest attempt comes out of some thinking I've been doing about the psychology of the causes and effects of pain and pleasure in general. Applying it to the causes of pain and pleasure from poetry, I've come up with three poetry-lover types:
I'm unsure how well they fit either to my theory, or to real life, so would REALLY appreciate feedback, even just denigration or praise. Here's how I see the three (who are new to me, so I'm not likely to get them too right, yet, but should get them right enough for discussion):
The apollonian has a lot in common, I hope, with Nietzsche's version of him. He is primarily interested in sunshine-bright clarity, and logic--both internal consistency and obedience to the known laws of nature. According to my theory, he is wired to recognize contradictions, with pain, and harmoniousness, or the avoidance of contradictions. Unity is thus important to him. Subject matter is relatively unimportant to him, nor is technique. In truth, he is close to insensitive to the poetry of poetry, the kind who, when extreme, sees poetry as having "real values" of much greater consequence than the beauty of what it says and does, like whatever political beliefs the apollonian has. It's pretty much sole function is to teach, not to entertain.
The dionysian is based on Nietzsche's idea of him as the opposite of the apollonian. He is instinct-based so far as poetry appreciation goes. This means that what is most important of him in poetry is that which he instinctively likes--e.g., a smiling human face, archetypal undertakings like the quest for a golden fleece of some sort, love between a man and woman, a kitten more than a few days old. Okay, what we instinctively get pleasure from varies from person to person, and hasn't except in a few cases, been firmly established by conventional science, but I think most people would agree there are stimuli we automatically find pleasure-giving, or painful.
A dionysian will therefore be more concerned with a poem's subject matter than anything else, though not necessarily significantly concerned with it. He will be much less concerned with technique and innovation. Frost's poetry will delight him. The mainstream will be his favorite, and perhaps only, poetry precinct.
The hermesian's patron deity, Hermes, is the god of invention, among other things. I see him as result-oriented. So a hermesian is significantly less concerned with what a poem is about than what it does, preferably innovatively. According to my theory, he is sensitive to the ratio of a poem's familiar aspects to its unfamiliar ones. Too high a ratio repels him, as does too low a one. Not too high or low a ratio will neither repel or give him pleasure--unless it is just right, whereupon it will elate him. This, I claim, is true of everyone, but it dominates a hermesian, and unimportant to average apollonians and dionysians.
It is hermesians who will echo Pound's command to poets about making it new.
Of course, the best poetry people will not be limited to one kind of poetry appreciation but reasonably strong in two or all three. Each of them will be strongest in one, I believe, so qualifies for one of my groups--but as a supra-apollonian, supra-dionysian or supra-hermesian.
I suspect apollonians are rare, and have a strongly dionysian bias. Many dionysians and hermesians are hostile to each other. Knott versus Silliman leaps to mind. Needless to say, I'm a hermesian, but not an anti-dionysian (by gum). I'm also staunchly apollonian.
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