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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

85. Texts & Pretexts - Aldous Huxley

The poet is, etymologically, the maker. Like all makers, he requires a stock of raw materials––in his case, experience. Now experience is not a matter of having actually swum the Hellespont, or danced with the dervishes, or slept in a doss-house. It is a matter of sensibility and intuition, of seeing and hearing the significant things, of paying attention at the right moments, of understanding and co-ordinating. Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him. It is a gift for dealing with accidents of existence, not the accidents themselves. By a happy dispensation of nature, the poet generally possesses the gift of experience in conjunction with that of expression. What he says so well is therefore intrinsically of value.
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That good poets should sometimes, or even generally, write badly is not, after all, very surprising. Auspicious circumstances must conspire with exceptional gifts; the mind must be seconded by its incalculable companion of flesh and blood, not crossed and hindered. The surprising thing, I repeat, is not that good poets should sometimes write badly; it is, rather that they should publish these unfortunate essays; that they should not have been self-critical enough to consign them to their proper place, the waste-paper basket.

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