Statement of Philosophy

A site for exploration and discussion about verse, poetics, the aesthetic, and creative writing in general.

Because there is a profound difference between writing something to be read and writing something worth reading; and in that difference might beauty be found.

★★ The Latest Posts on Hatter's Adversaria
The Rational and SpiritualitySomething I Read #21 – C.K. Stead
Something I Read #20 – Carl JungSomething I Read #19 – Carl Jung

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"My God, It's Full of Stars" and Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith

Life on Mars (Graywolf Press, 2011)
poem found online at Poetry Foundation site here

First lines:
We like to think of it as parallel to what we know,
Only bigger. One man against the authorities.


reading selectively and reading collectively — another demonstration that reading well means close reading

minor editing, an added footnote, and moving a bit to the end — 7/31/2014

This post has been added to the Hatter's Cabinet site via its Best of the Poetry Daily Critique page

This post focuses on "My God, It's Full of Stars" because it has been published online in Poetry Magazine. Though, I will take the opportunity to reach out from the one poem and give some consideration to the Pulitzer winning book Life on Mars as a whole. In such, I hope to offer something of a critical review of the book without abandoning the normal focus here of exploring poems to the end of writing poems. One of the motivations I had in expanding my purview beyond the two Daily sites was to be able to talk about books of poetry – which is to say poems in an organized group – as well as individual poems. What better choice for such exploration than books already selected for consideration by the Pulitzer committee.

There needs to be here some words towards transparency. First, I do not think much of the Pulitzer prize. I do not buy books on the basis of the committees' judgments. Indeed I have never bought a book because it either won the prize or was short listed for it. The Pulitzer has never done anything for as long as I have given attention to it (when I give attention to it) to convince me that it has any genuine, valuable, critical merit; and, it has done much to persuade me otherwise. Second, I did not purchase Life on Mars for the purpose of reviewing it. I bought it only because it was new to the poetry shelf at a used bookstore I frequent. Thus, it is only chance that it came to my possession and in turn only chance that it is appearing here. What previous knowledge I have of the book is limited to my having picked it up in a book store after it won the award. Though, I put it back finding it on perusal as something that was not going to change my mind about the Pulitzer.

Monday, July 21, 2014

"A Way" by Rosanna Warren -- Poetry Magazine

from Poetry Magazine (July/August 2014)
poem found here

First lines:
She said she sang very close to the mike
to change the space. And I changed the space


an exploration post


No one theme here, just exploring what is offered by the text.


Let's begin with the first sentence. To write

(1) She said she sang very close to the mike to change the space.

is not the same thing as writing

(2) She sang very close to the mike to change the space.

is not the same thing as writing

(3) She said, she sang very close to the mike to change the space.

For clarity I'll modify it slightly:

(3) She said, I sing very close to the mike to change the space.

The difference between (2) and (1), the addition of the "she said," changes the focus of the sentence. Sentence (2) is a statement of fact that does not in itself go beyond that uttered fact. The function of such a sentence is only to present the fact to the reader. However, with the addition of the "she said" — and, importantly, without any comma marking the rest of the sentence as dialogue, as in sentence (3) — the content of the sentence is moved in focus from a mere fact to a fact connected connected to the actor: that it, the fact of singing close to the mike is brought within the domain of the speaker.

It is made personal; it is given personal interpretation. Without the "she said" the reason for the singing close to the mike will only imputed to act from outside the singer. Yes, it is presented by the narrator of the poem, but without the presence of the speaker herself in the sentence, the narrator is imposing a "reason" upon the action.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

"Hymn to Life" by Timothy Donnelly -- Poetry Magazine

from Poetry (July/August 2014)
poem found here

First lines:
There were no American lions. No pygmy mammoths left
or giant short-faced bears, which towered over ten feet high


verse or prose, poetic or prosaic

– some minor editing, Feb. 5, 2015
This post has been added to the Hatter's Cabinet site via its Best of the Poetry Daily Critique page


The ideas in this post are given further examination in "Re-examining the Verse-Prose Poetic-Prosaic Graph"


As is obvious from the last post, I recently read Owen Barfield's Poetic Diction, and want to bring into the run of this blog one of his ideas. Though, in truth it is not a thought peculiar to Barfield. Coleridge (who stands in the background of Poetic Diction) posits the general idea through his own theories, and it is a central idea to the Modernist endeavor (in both literature and the arts), not to mention that strain of philosophy that runs through Nietzsche into the post-structuralists.

I will let Barfield speak for himself. (This is the opening to chapter IX, "Verse and Prose.")[FN]

At the opposite pole to the wide sense in which I have been using the phrase "poetic diction," stands the narrowest one, according to which it signifies "language which can be used in verse but not in prose." This artificial identification of the words poetry and poetic with metrical form is certainly of long standing in popular use; but it has rarely been supported by those who have written on the subject. As Verse is an excellent word for metrical writing of all kinds, whether poetic or unpoetic, and Prose for un-metrical writing, in this book the formal literary distinction is drawn between verse and prose; whereas that between poetry, poetic on the one hand and prosaic on the other is a spiritual one, not confined to literature [i.e., open to all the arts].

The idea is rather a simple and obvious when it comes to it: we can readily speak about the formal properties of the material aspect of a text without dependence upon the spiritual or ideational aspects (which is the aim prosody), and we can speak about the spiritual/ideational aspects of a text without dependence upon the formal properties of the material aspect of the text (exploring meaning, metaphor, etc.)