“The current battle of ‘obscurity’ versus ‘clarity’ (or of ‘to be’ versus ‘to mean’) tends to divide poets into two extremes equally deadly to poetry. The first extreme, in the name of anti-philistinism, is for cross-word-puzzle poetry which, whatever its fascination, would kill poetry by scaring away its audience. The second extreme, in the name of communication, would demagogically popularize poetry, in betrayal of all integrity of standards, until it reaches the widest but also lowest common denominator and is no longer poetry at all, but verse. The first group would sterilize the muse. The second group would prostitute her.
“Is there not third possibility for the curious craftsman? Must he become either précieux or ‘corny,’ either Babbitt Junior or Babbitt Senior?
“The answer is: an act of creative faith in a new and third force in poetry, already emerging, equally remote from the muse’s mincing sterilizers and back-slapping salesmen. Such a third force must prefer a difficult simplicity to an easy obscurity. It must return to the function of ethical responsibility and of communication of ideas and emotions. Any fool can lucidly communicate an easy greeting-card level of ideas and emotions. Any fool can obscurely ‘impress’ a would-be modernist reader by incoherent and pretentious approximations of difficult ideas and emotions. Great art communicates lucidly and with classic simplicity the most difficult level of ideas and emotions.”
- Peter Viereck, Dream and Responsibility: Four Test Cases of the Tension between Poetry and Society (1953), p. 20.
“That bed is too hard; that bed is too soft; but this bed is just right.”
- Goldilocks (attrib.; n.d.).
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