Affirming limits: essays on mortality, choice, and poetic by Robert Pack

By Robert Pack

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Extra resources for Affirming limits: essays on mortality, choice, and poetic form

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In this spirit Gerard Manley Hopkins enjoins us: "long before death / Give beauty . . " The origin of art was the ritualistic celebration of power and beauty beyond the fabricating strength of man's greatest efforts. The role of the artist was to serve and glorify divine power that "doth not need / Either man's work or his own gifts," as Milton exclaims. The modern artist, sick with alienation from the world and thus from himself, speaking mainly in the sardonic tone of irony, retreats to his art as if it were a world in which he might live, though its only sub- Page 13 stance is his own unhappiness feeding upon itself.

This fidelity to creating a convincing illusion marks the poet's seriousness about his art. In my poem, the speaker had a brother and the brother died. I sympathize with him. Believe me, I understand how he felt. In "A General Introduction for My Work," Yeats tells his reader: "All that is personal soon rots. . Talk to me of originality and I will turn on you with rage. I am a crowd, I am a lonely man. " His message is that the poet should beware of writing from the perspective of the autobiographical self-the self that is neither generalized nor extended through invention, transformation, or identification with others.

In Theodore Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz," we see again a double narrator: a child and a man combined. In the course of the poem we hear the intermingling of their two vocabularies. The title suggests that we are listening to the poem from the son'sthe child'sperspective. " The whiskey on your breath Could make a small boy dizzy; But I hung on like death: Such waltzing was not easy. We romped until the pans Slid from the kitchen shelf; My mother's countenance Could not unfrown itself. The hand that held my wrist Was battered on one knuckle; At every step you missed My right ear scraped a buckle.

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