ars libertatis

29 February 1920 – 5 July 1991

Language, then, is the marvelous mirror of the human condition, a mirror so miraculous that it can see what is invisible, that is, the relations between things. At the same time, the mirror is a limit, and as such, it is sorrowful; one wants to break it and look beyond. But unless we have the singular talent for mystical experience we do not really break the mirror, and even the mystic’s experience is available to us only as reflected, inadequately, in the mirror. Most often man deals with reality by its reflection.

The Swaying Form: A Problem in Poetry (1959)

Civilization, mirrored in language, is the garden where relations grow; outside the garden is the wild abyss.

The Swaying Form: A Problem in Poetry (1959)

Poetry, I would say, is, in its highest ranges, no mere playing with the counters of meaning, but a perpetual re-deriving of the possibility of meaning from matter, of the intelligible world from the brute recalcitrance of things. Poetry differs from thought in this respect, that thought eats up the language in which it thinks. Thought is proud, and always wants to forget its humble origin in things. In doing so, it begins to speak by means of very elevated abstractions, which quickly become emptied and impoverished.

The Swaying Form: A Problem in Poetry (1959)

The poet’s business, I would say, is to name as accurately as possible a situation, but a situation which he himself is in. The name he gives ought to be so close a fit with the actuality it summons into being that there remains no room between inside and outside; the thought must be ’like a beast moving in its skin" (Dante).

The Swaying Form: A Problem in Poetry (1959)

As to the poet himself, one might add this. Writing is a species of askesis, a persevering devotion to the energy passing between self and world. It is a way of living, a way of being, and, though it does produce results in the form of “works,” these may come to seem of secondary importance to the person so engaged.

The Swaying Form: A Problem in Poetry (1959)

Writing means trying to find out what the nature of things has to say about what you think you have to say. And the process is reflective or cyclical, a matter of feedback between oneself and “it,” an “it” which can gain its identity only in the course of being brought into being, come into being only in the course of finding its identity.

The Swaying Form: A Problem in Poetry (1959)