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Thursday, June 22, 2006

65. Robert Graves - Oxford Address On Poetry

The vocabulary of Islam contains an important and power word: BARAKA..... Baraka means lightening.
Since lightning is a phenomenon everywhere attributed to the gods, baraka means the sudden divine rapture which overcomes either a prophet or a group of fervent devotees...... it can therefore stand for the blessedness acquired by holy shrines and other places where the spirit of God has been plainly manifested.....
This religious metaphor invites lay uses. If a family has settled down peacefully in a house of their own choosing, every room acquires a domestic, rather than an ecstatic, baraka, which spells "home". An Arab village woman will prize the dented brass cooking pot that has done service for a generation or more, as having baraka and producing far tastier food than the brightest spun-aluminium sauce pan.
Baraka in literature and the creative arts is of the utmost importance........
But though the formalities of printing a poem invite readers to fall under its spell, poems so rarely have baraka that the eye grows suspicious and seldom succumbs. Myself, I have come to dread the sight of a new book of poems. Too often the spell vanishes after I have read a few lines, and my prose mind reasserts itself. The poem's holy circle has been broken by some extraneous element: whether experimental affectation, or Classical convention, or incoherence, or banality, or didacticism. How to create and preserve the spell must remain a mystery. But one can say, at least, that the words must, as it were, grow together, entranced by the poet's personal rhythm; and that they cannot do so unless unchallengeably his own, the familiar furniture of his mind. All attempts to borrow from the alien languages of science and philosphy will be futile; they have no emotional depth.....
But I am old-fashioned enough to demand baraka, an inspirational gift not yet extinct, which defies critical analysis.......
I shall leave you to find your own apt instances of baraka in art, architecture or music. In poetry it can cast an immortal spell on the simplest combination of words.

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