from Personal & Impersonal: Six Aesthetic
1. Sonnet for an Enemy
2. The Blue Coat
3. Problem in Space
4. Pigeons and Men in Tight
5. On Meeting Beauty
6. Becoming Morning
7. The Funeral
9. In Time
Between the Moments
14. Homer, Sappho, and Everything
& Education Links:
from Eli Siegel's Introduction to
& Impersonal: 6 Aesthetic Realists
The Ever-Living Question
The question, What is
poetry?--is as alive today as ever; it is likely more alive, for it is
felt increasingly that what poetry is deeply and immediately concerns
what our lives are.....Do poems of all languages, times, localities
have something in common? I have said--and called it elementary--that
poems as happenings have a cause in common....Most persons would say
that an emotion is necessary for a poem to happen. It is so....
It is equally clear that emotions as such don't make a poem.For
everyone has emotions. When you miss a bus, you have an emotion; when
you're on a plane, and the plane sinkingly, suddenly does a strange
thing, you have an emotion; when Miranda, sobbingly, calls you up and
tells you she can't keep a date, you have an emotion; when an employer
calls Raphael, the shipping clerk, into his moderate-sized office,
Raphael has an emotion.
But you and Raphael don't necessarily have poetic emotions because
these things have come to you and Raphael. What we can't grant to
Raphael, we can't grant to anyone. It is only personal emotion, not
poetic emotion or art emotion that so far has been had.
And so we come to Personal and Impersonal.
2. Personal and
distinguishes a poetic emotion or, generally, an art emotion from
the customary kind is that while a poetic emotion is personal and
at once, the customary kind can be seen as just personal.
Burns suffered from love, and saw his suffering with impersonality,
too. So there were poems. Many other Scotch young men in the
1770's and 1780's suffered from love, but the way they saw what
happened to them was not the way Robert Burns saw what happened to
him. Burns made a poetic happening out of what happened to him with
Mary or Jean or Nancy. In so doing, he was impersonal, too; abstract,
universal, all-things, all-persons. Clearly, if Burns' songs were just
personal, they would be like Donald or Jamie or Gilbert complaining, of
an evening, bitterly, in some Ayr hostelry. Donald's, Jamie's,
Gilbert's complaints we can surmise; they have not come to us; Robert
Burns' complaints, yearnings, contemplations, ardors have come to us;
they were impersonal-and-personal; they had and have what is called
5. Sheldon Kranz:
there is something
primal that shows itself, in the resulting
words, as finesse. In the work of Sheldon Kranz, this primal finesse
example, Sonnet for an Enemy is a successful
sonnet in the Shakespearean form, because a battle in self is dealt
as if the writer were in the midst of it, while he was looking at it,
a hilltop observer might. The syllables fall rightly, but the source,
primary thing, is working in the syllables and the pauses between the
smile and chop
away at what is kind,
while elegant--in the the
eighteenth-century sense--convey the uproar
of life, and the unseen force behind the unheard uproar.
something primal about Mr. Kranz's poem, The Blue
Coat, though its form is
clearly other than that of Sonnet
Enemy. The primal in the
world makes for the uncertain, the
unshaped, the rough--and it does likewise for the filament, the
web, the neat, flexible blade and petal. The Blue Coat is about
where individuality finds warmth; and the poem deals well with the two
contenders for the individual's warm acceptance of himself--the
forces in one, and what one owns, or seems to; as against the
subtly immense universe. Accuracy and music are in the lines of The
Blue Coat. They are there,
though otherwise than in the lines of a
successful sonnet; for music in poetry comes variously, in truth.
The hiddenness between two people is swirlingly presented in Problem
in Space. The tightness in
mankind is entertainingly and valuably
to the flying tightness of pigeons in Pigeons and Men in Tight Blue
Suits. --How much are we for
beauty--particularly the beauty that
unconsciously disarrange the hugged routine of self--that is to be
with poetic consequence, in On
a touch of reprovable ornateness--is in Becoming Morning, but
radiance of the universe, as--somewhat in the Kantian manner--it is to
be found in the, at times, dim enclosures of self, is effectively got
Morning. The lines tremble in
measured correctness.--An occurrence
of lasting somberness is in The
Funeral, metrically well
can be in poetry, and the crisis of
character. The poem Rhoda
exemplifies this. --The breathlessness and exactitude of existence are
well transmitted in In Time.
Is there that in us desiring coldness? Antagonism
with Landscape says there is. Cold is primal; it is that in this poem of Kranz, with
selectivity and fear.
the world that enables us to see, say the
notably the aforementioned Kant. The poet in Pale but Piercing Sky
says that when the sky for him has that powerful aesthetic junction of
paleness and piercingness, reluctance, limitation, superfluous snugness
in him are defeated; and he sees with untrammeled willingness and
What seems and what is are, through the sky, in mighty inseparableness.
--The poem No Tickets is an allegory about whether we have
own demands. An allegorical locomotive may not agree with our
Is any moment in existence interesting?
That is a philosophic, poetic,
immediate and primal question. It is answered, neatly and keenly, in The
Moments Between the Moments.
primal, then, becomes
pointed in representative work of Sheldon
Some of the roll and tumult of poetic lines is not with us as yet;
has more motions; and yet more motions; but the grass blade in its
and the clearness of a print, along with the primal, are in the poems I
have mentioned. The meaning of the fact that these are in the poems,
will linger and make for increasing critical awareness and
If love for love is my own
Then gratitude must find a willing mate,
And search beneath the sea for one clear sail,
That fought the waves and sank beneath their weight.
If individuality pursues
My wildest flights across the barren reef,
Then love in all its pride cannot refuse
To shelter me from my own disbelief.
For I have searched the corners of my mind,
And found them filled with figures from the past,
Who smile and chop away at what is kind,
And nail their victims to a secret mast.
So each of us acts out his winter's tale,
Yet longs to find again that one clear sail.
"Just look at him," the
"Doesn't he look precious?"
The boy looked down and saw his coat.
He smiled. "My coat is blue," he said.
The words went deep and twisted hard;
The sun was gone; the coat was harsh;
The boy began to weep.
Deep within him lay the sun,
Hidden by the brand-new coat.
He tried to find the sun again,
But all he saw were coats of blue.
Fighting, he sank into his mother's lap,
Into her soft blue dress.
I sit and listen
While part of me drifts among the coffee cups,
No longer wanting to look at you.
I talk and smile acutely
I look down on our quiet heads
And find the tops of heads most curious.
You would not know this,
Until tired of the conversation
And of the fading smile behind my eyes,
You float up above the table and the cups
To meet me,
And laughing, show me
How ridiculous we both look.