Necessary outcomes


16 September 2008, 22.12 CET

If in the eighteenth century, with its interest in the general and universal, the danger for poets was a neglect of the singular, the danger for a poet working with the subjective life is the reverse; i. e. realizing that, if he is to be true to nature in this world, he must accept strange juxtapositions of imagery, singular associations of ideas, he is tempted to manufacture calculated oddities as if the subjectively sacred were necessarily and on all occasions odd . . . It is not surprising, then, that many modern poems, among them Mr Ashbery’s entertaining sestina ‘The Painter’, are concerned with the nature of the creative process and with posing the question, ‘Is it now possible to write poetry?’.

—W. H. Auden

[Quoted in Times Literary Supplement 5502 (September 12 2008), p. 5]