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“The poet speaks to all men of that other life of theirs that they have smothered and forgotten.”

I’ve re-posted from a blog called “The Art of Quotation.”

Douglas Moore does a wonderful job, pairing photos and quotations!

The photo is by Erik Müller

Art of Quotation

“The poet speaks to all men of that other life of theirs that they have smothered and forgotten.”

Edith Sitwell, poet


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13 thoughts on ““The poet speaks to all men of that other life of theirs that they have smothered and forgotten.”

    • Here’s what I found via Wikiquotes. The quotation is part of a lecture titled “Young Poets” that was pubilshed as part of Mightier Than the Sword: the P.E.N. Hermon Ould Memorial Lectures, 1953-1961 (1964), p. 56.

      The original quotation is somewhat different: “As for the usefulness of poetry, its uses are many. It is the deification of reality. It should make our days holy to us. The poet should speak to all men, for a moment, of that other life of theirs that they have smothered and forgotten.”

      The version quoted here was published in The Beacon Book of Quotations by Women by Rosalie Maggio (p. 247). It looks to me like an example of what Garson O’Toole calls synthesis: the “shortening and streamlining” of a quotation.

      • Well, I know almost nothing about Edith Sitwell or her literary friends. I’ve seen her mentioned frequently, reading about the Twenties, and liked few poems I’ve read, although I wouldn’t claim to instantly understand them.
        Perhaps Doug could shed some light – he’s an artist living in northern California, originally hailing from upstate NY, and a great guy, always full of cheer and positive attitude.

          • That’s a pretty snappy comment you wrote yourself! Very Parker-ish. 🙂 When I just read about her a bit, sounds like her style changed greatly after the Twenties, and they used the term “baroque,” so she goes on my list, of things to take a look at. I’m booked until the year 2035 by now, I bet.

      • Good sleuthing! I hunt down citations not only to get context, as I mentioned, but also because so many statements are misquoted on the Internet. You found yet another example. “Synthesis” strikes me as a good term for what happened in this case. In such synthesizing, nuances can get lost. For instance, notice the difference between “The poet speaks…” and “The poet should speak…” And of course the deification of reality and the making of our days holy got thrown out altogether, even though those notions form an important part of what Sitwell was saying. Now I have to wonder whether the truncation was due to a bias of the anthologizer.

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