Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A finding place ...

... not a hiding place: Jeanette Winterson on Shafts of sunlight. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In the land of reality TV and confessional talk shows, Eliot's wish to withdraw the personal from his poetry - from any poetry - is easy to misread. But the paradox of the best writing is that while the writer's voice is unmistakable, the writer has somehow performed the Indian rope trick and disappeared. Celebrity culture can't imagine anyone wanting to disappear, or that such a thing might be necessary. Now, when we are told that everything depends on our "personality", it seems strange to hear Eliot saying, as he does in his essay "Tradition and the Individual Talent", that "poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But of course only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from those things."
Read the whole. It is excellent.

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