Friday, January 25, 2013

Roger Rosenblatt

Unless It Moves the Human Heart

Chapter Six: A Fine Frenzy
     "...poetry is also the music of the genres. No work of prose, no matter how beautiful, is aptly called a song.
     There is also something less threatening about poetry. It seems to be conjured up and conceived in a space so removed from the world that the world, however admiring of it, does not take it seriously. Thomas Hardy said that if Galileo had announced in a poem that the earth moved, the Inquisition might have let him be. And yet poems of the ages go on and on, differentiated from prose by an ethereal quality derived from elliptical thought and their deliberate avoidance of understanding. A poem should be at once clear and mystifying––in Shelley's terms, "the words which express what they understand not." Prose, on the other hand, strives to be understood, especially in its own time, which accounts for both its strength and its weakness."
Roger Rosenblatt autographing Unless It Moves the Human Heart
  at the 2011 Miami Book Fair
A few pages later:
     "Poets may not be formally religious themselves, but they are religious as writers and observers of the world. The disinterestedness by which the poem comes into being is like God's. And like God, who seems to be defined only by his own existence, the poet remains only himself, admiring the world of his subject matter––also fearing, loathing, and adoring it––standing back and "paring his fingernails."

Rosenblatt continues with:
     "A poet tries to identify a situation or an emotion as accurately as possible. To name it, nail it, so that the thing and his description of the thing are virtually the same. At the same time, the poet knows that perfect identification is impossible. I think that's where imperfection is the same thing as divine."

     There I leave you, but not before relating that Roger Rosenblatt is an American journalist, author, playwright and teacher. In 2009, he was one of three finalists for the Robert F. Cherry Award for Excellence in University Teaching.