Outward Bound Ideas

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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.
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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