Poetic Experience and
Poetic Process, Part Two of Two
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Jung’s typology from “Psychology and Literature” predates many of the literary arguments which took place five to twenty-five years after 1930 in American poetry. However, of most relevance for this writing, the types themselves have been misunderstood as a choice between modes or some fashionable choice of style, such as formal or free verse.
For some American poets, thinking about the issue in retrospect, this perceived choice illustrates an inability to think logically about literary decisions. In context, Northrop Frye identified a period of literature in England’s history between Classicism and Romanticism which illustrates the same central issues in his essay titled, “Towards Defining an Age of Sensibility” (Fables of Identity). His typologies were slightly different in word choice, utilizing Classical models for each categorical description: “Aristotelian” for Jung’s “psychological,” and “Longinian” for Jung’s “visionary.” One could even say that T. S. Eliot’s essay, “The metaphysical Poets” can be approached as a study of a species of the visionary side of this dichotomy.
In the later history of American poetry theory, especially after 1980, one can see frequent reference made to the choice between one or the other as a primary style or mode of writing poetry. Eliot illustrates again in “The Perfect Critic,” the kind of opposition or stance that would force a choice remains no different than the older debates among whether a poet’s primary mode were formal or free verse, common in American poetry periodicals circa 1935 and after this time. In America, the Post-War era typically represents a significant shift in mass cultural thought and attitudes towards art and political issues.
During the 1940s through the 1950s Roethke, Stevens and Creeley begin publishing theoretical essays. In the next three decades, there exists a great flourish of theoretical writing. Robert Bly, Donald Hall, James Wright, Gallway Kinnell, Denise Levertov and many others have essays published in the Poets on Poetry series through the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. This series began in the 1980s, continued through the 1990s and represents a great storehouse of knowledge concerning the history of poetry in the United States.
The aesthetic we as Americans have inherited from the Romantic poets was also strongly influenced by what I will call a Transcendentalist sense of spirituality which has been balanced with the influence of science and reason. Often only parts of these aspects become evident in the work of the poets I have discussed from the Claims text. Logically, certain tendencies remain more predominant in some than in others.
One may describe Emerson as overtly spiritual or Wallace Stevens as intellectual. Perhaps, some would describe William Carlos Williams using neither of these terms and say his work is experiential. All of them share the same material, they only use it in different ways to accentuate or address different aspects of experience.
In the 1984 essay, “James Wright,” Robert Hass refutes an aspect of Robert Bly’s reasoning in his 1963 essay, “A Wrong Turning in American Poetry” (Twentieth Century Pleasures 26-55). At one point, Hass discusses the role of imagination in poetic process. The more I thought about what was said, I think its role enters the process mostly in the latter stages. The initial formation, the seed of the poem, is most of the time a feeling or an impulse originating through experience in the actual environment of wherever you are. In creating the entire work there are periods of revision and here you literally must “imagine,” you must somehow get back into that mood or feeling, then re-establish your line of thought.
In this sense, there exists a conscious manipulation of imagination though at the initial outset the words, the feeling that prompts the entire process, springs up from the unconscious — you cannot call this imagination. This word and all its implications are only relevant after the initial intuitive impulse. Further, Hass says, “It is when the imagination withdraws from things that they become objects, when it lets the world go. This is a Calvinist and solipsistic doctrine” (Hass 38). I don’t understand how this is a problem in terms of the purely functional aspect of poetic process.
First, there is experienced the intuitive feeling, from whatever outside source—though even this at times from the inside first, and from this literal prompt, then the lines first formed, sometimes if these are limited the imagination begins to work, though its withdrawal is an inevitable fact of the creative process. Also, it is “solipsistic” because its source is a mystery. We can only conjecture after the fact of some empirical event or activity such as thought.
Psychology and Pragmatism would dispense with the term imagination and conceive of a psychical process in terms of perception, apprehension and attention. However, these other disciplines remain quite irrelevant regarding the current discussion, a limited vocabulary of mutual interest being the exception, i.e., “unconscious” (Olson). Those disciplines would not benefit from furthering this discussion because the abstract principles and questions they establish seek different answers concerning human behavior and reasoning.
In Robert Hass’s 1984 essay, “James Wright,” he refutes a distinction Robert Bly makes in his 1963 essay, “A Wrong Turning in American Poetry.” Bly insists in this essay that poet’s must choose between two prevailing tendencies: a poetry of overt intelligence or a mostly experiential kind. Marvin Bell says something similar as Bly’s claim, when he writes in “The Impure Every Time” that each type can be illustrated with William Carlos Williams on one side representing the experiential, and Wallace Stevens on the opposite side representing a poetry of the intelligence. Bell, caught up in the polemics of, ‘us versus them,’ said this: “I used to think I didn’t have to choose as a writer either, but I was wrong. They don’t merely represent different styles. They represent opposite attitudes, opposing principles, about what the subject of poetry is” (39). He then acknowledges the fact that such a stance has been transcended in common, academic understanding. He says, “We know now that poetry is a quality of imagination and language inextricably bound up with the recognizable world” (Bell 39). I understand this to mean each of them together.
Intelligent and insightful, though still thinking in terms of opposition, Louis Simpson eloquently describes them as follows in “The Poet and the Reader” where he says, “poets to whom language is a reality in itself” exemplary of Wallace Stevens or John Ashbery and “a way of writing in which your attention is directed through the writing to the object you’re talking about. You should be having the feeling, seeing the object, having the experience and not being immersed in the language itself” (The Character of the Poet 39). Simpson was a well-respected teacher and poet, though I disagree with him on the issue of choosing modes and what is supposed to happen in the reading experience of a poem. Later in this essay he issues a more direct statement, “I think a writer has to choose between these two extreme positions” (Simpson 39). I am more inclined to think of this problem as Bell, Hass and Wright.
In the Hass essay, we see a refutation that is very similar. He writes of Bly’s insistence on separation of inner and outer, such a division “has to be fundamentally wrong about the relationship between imagination and intelligence because…the imagination is luminously intelligent. Imagination cannot be without intelligence, any more than it can be without feeling” (Twentieth Century Pleasures 39). These factors remain bound up within poetic process, one as much as the other. Also consider the fact that a poet of either tendency may possibly need to utilize both types in course of any given body of poetry. I would argue that the oscillation in general is natural. Normally, the reader will see evidence of each type, a tension or struggle between them, perhaps more pronounced in a poet’s first collections.
Bly seems to have changed his thinking on this issue in a 1971 interview titled, “The Evolutionary Part of the Mind: An Interview with Jay Bail and Geoffrey Cook” (Talking All Morning 3-46). In this interview he says, “one of the main Buddhist ideas is that the Westerners have… got to stop insisting on this distinction between the body and the mind and then choosing one” (Bly 12). This holistic mentality is central to the idea of “inwardness.” The term is elusive because it can be felt at work in the best poems and absent in those that are not so good. Inwardness is not so much a theory, even though it is somewhat a way of thinking about one’s innermost thoughts and feelings, though it is also a part of poetic process that involves all faculties rather than one, the full range of feeling and emotion rather than the single idea. Eastern cultures remain frequently cited for this open view. James Wright says the
Japanese spirit and the tradition of the poetry, I think, has influenced me from time to time — in the effort the Japanese writers make to get rid of the clutter of language, to conceive of a poem as something which, with the greatest modesty, is brought up close to its subject so that it can be suggestive and evocative. (Collected Prose 198).
I hesitate to call inwardness the quality or trait of a peculiar process other than the poetic process unique to the given poet, because it is the same, yet slightly different in all of us. Inwardness is a descriptive term that can be used to describe good poetry in general, as a quality, though also a type of mental activity that involves a spiritual reflection of assessing one’s emotions and feelings honestly, even though the way in which emotions find their ultimate expression may be poetic; formal or free verse.
In another sense, inwardness shares many attributes with Eastern religions. Like the Buddhist idea of eliminating the ego, this ‘going inward’ shares part of the process necessary for transcending the more superficial aspects of emotions and the self. Like the Hindu who trains his thoughts without thinking to see beyond maya, the world of illusions, in order to attain a state of consciousness concerning human existence, inwardness bears this sense in the shedding of the false self through elimination of the more or less superficial feelings and emotions. Poets typically seek out those from whom they have found some affinity and much like the guru, this person or group form a source of learning for instruction. Joseph Campbell spent two years of his life living on a chicken farm completing nothing except menial chores and reading books. James Wright describes in “Some Notes on Chinese Poetry” the influence that mostly inspired him was Confucian. He says this poetry embodied “the capacity to feel — to experience human emotion, whether occasion of that emotion be a great public event, a disaster, or the most intimate private event or scene” (Wright 124). Anyone who has ever read Wright’s work can see these types of events serve as objects and material for his poetry.
For Wright, Chinese poetry has “an abiding radiance, a tenderness for places and persons and for other living creatures” (124). Anyone who has read Wright’s poetry can easily see this quality also present. He also expressed the desire to incorporate this aspect into his work when he writes that the Chinese have always been able “to keep human feeling alive and to increase its range through the imagination. Time and again these poets can deal with the most commonplace of scenes and occasions, and feel them with clear feeling and with the light of the imagination” (Wright 125). This description could equally describe the many poets of inwardness in the United States.
Previously, I used the term “Transcendentalist” to describe the sense of spirituality that I feel underlies my influence and attitude toward experience. This has changed much over the past forty to fifty years in contemporary American poetry. Those writing in any tradition that can be described as “political,” New Formalist or any mainstream poetry, are good examples, and those who do not can be described as language-oriented poets. Notice that the framework outlined in Jung’s essay still holds and even these terms find an adequate place within that paradigm: the mainstream or arbitrary modes would be considered psychological and the intellectual or language-oriented modes would be considered visionary.
My sense of spirituality has for many years been allied with the experience of nature. Free of all fundamentalist, extremist evangelical influence, this sense of spirituality goes beyond those dogmatic forms of propaganda. For me, poetry has existed to engage questioning the true essence of the ultimate ground of reality in a common way, though without becoming a religion. Taken in a broader context, all art has a spiritual purpose and function. As readers or critics of art, we must
let a work of art act upon us as it acted upon the artist. To grasp its meaning, we must allow it to shape us as it shaped him. Then we also understand the nature of his primordial experience. He has plunged into the healing and redeeming depths of the collective psyche, where man is not lost in the isolation of consciousness and its errors and sufferings, but where all men are caught in a common rhythm which allows the individual to communicate his feelings and strivings to mankind as a whole. (Jung 105).
If this term applies to anything in the poetic sense, it is the idea of the local as Creeley describes: the idea of linking oneself to one’s material, one’s place and time historically, to bind oneself to this greater definition of humanity which only an ‘educated imagination’ could maintain. Thus, in nature, one can see a greater sense of immediacy being in the midst of creation and even though other elements have influenced human awareness, like the knowledge of science, there remains an aspect of nature that will always be mystical or unknown. This fact is another element in the situation of poetic process.
To go beyond the known, ethnocentric and dogmatic systems of thought included in the evocation of some sense of connectedness and meaning is how I understand transcendence. This is the part that is meaningful to me. It does not matter in any regard if the term were misapplied or not, like so many other imposed, descriptive terms in academic or journalistic publications, which is exactly what the terms “transcendentalist” and “deep image” were and remain today.
Jung’s conception would seek a balance of understanding each idea because of his objective, psychological approach to phenomena. Sometimes the deep image is an archetypal image, though not always. A deep image has meaning though often within the context of the poem for whatever purpose the poet uses this kind of image. The term is only descriptive, as I said before. The images or the contextualized image originates from the process of inwardness, literally from the unconscious of the individual psyche. It is “deep” because the image as well as the poetry originates from this aspect of the self that remains in some sense unintelligible or to a certain extent, unknowable.
Thus, depth or the emotions and feelings originate from the ‘deep,’ unknown or lesser known aspect of the psyche. Such images have also been called “archetypal,” or “mythic,” in that they transcend the historical contexts from which they originate, some ancient, some closer to or of our contemporary time. Such remain my own thoughts on the issue, though I find even my own description quite irrelevant.
Two documents from 1960 form my awareness of the idea of the deep image; Jerome Rothenberg’s “Deep Image and Mode: An Exchange with Robert Creeley” and Robert Kelly’s “Notes on the Poetry of the Deep Image.” Kelly’s essay cites Rothenberg’s and remains perhaps the most ambiguous and undeveloped of the two despite its simplistic brevity and logical arrangement. These documents were influenced by another essay written ten years earlier: Charles Olson’s “Projective Verse” from 1950.
Descriptive terms sometimes aid in the comprehension of a concept or ideas. Like art or literary movements, they have the potential of losing their force and meaning over time if the primary documents are not sought to understand them in their own context. Relying on assumed meanings or secondary sources can become destructive in creating a false image or understanding of the artist or ideas in question. In this sense, they become misunderstood because the ideas have been reduced to summary or another’s understanding and the original words remain unread or worse, unquestioned against our own sensibilities.
Part of what contributes to this misunderstanding in reading Rothenberg’s essay is the assumption that the writer has utilized the same terminology as those professionals who form the consensus of the scholar’s educational training. One should expect writing from the 1960s to illustrate characteristics of this age of political change which obviously signals a change in thought. Likewise, there exist terms that remain integral to Rothenberg’s conception that find no synonyms or correlation to the basic terms that many scholars use when discussing poetry or literary theory.
When Donald Hall writes in 1973 of “Goatfoot, Milktongue, Twinbird,” he eventually tells us what he means, though these terms themselves remain purely figurative and created for the context of his essay. They are synonyms of concepts that already exist in our professional, collective profession. In reading Rothenberg, sometimes the reader encounters terms that may not be as figurative; “mode,” “deep image,” “vision,” “movement,” “rhythm of images” or “percept.” These words may not be metaphorical, though they remain less clear in their meaning and use.
For one to understand Rothenberg’s use of these terms and their meanings, a brief discussion of his concept of the deep image and inwardness will help clarify his ideas. In “Deep Image and Mode,” Jerome Rothenberg states five tenets for deep image poetry. First, that “the poem is the record of a movement from perception to vision” (Rothenberg 59). Most people today would assent that all art is in some respects a record of human experience. Thus, second, he says that “poetic form is the pattern of that movement through space and time” (Rothenberg 59). Since for Rothenberg, poetic form is the pattern of this movement, vision exists as something different than form. This seems logical in the sense that language communicates whatever perceptions we have through the work of art.
Precepts three through five serve to describe the inner-working of the deep image. Rothenberg’s third precept says, “the deep image is the content of vision emerging in the poem” (“Pre-Faces” 59). The deep image then, exists as the central image informing the conflict, the drama or thought of the poem. For Rothenberg, the deep image is never an archetype. It is more like an evocation of some deeper aspect of one’s emotions rather than a spiritual identification or a social role, even though his thought seems open to include spiritual ideas or material in the work of art. Fourth, he states that “the vehicle for the movement is imagination” (Rothenberg 59). Here I was reminded of Wallace Stevens and The Necessary Angel in “Imagination as Value” where he makes a similar distinction between “fancy” and “imagination.” The process of poetic creation, therefore remains deeper, less superficial than poetry as mere reportage. Last, “the condition of movement is freedom” (Rothenberg 59). The statement is plain enough and based on the historical context of the writing, anyone with a general level of awareness can understand its usage. In a summary of his poetic goals, Rothenberg writes that:
The genius of the new poetry [is] its power to create rather than imitate (each poem a new creation, not a copy of nature or of other poems), which seems to me to place a maximum value on the unique differences between poets, as all have different eyes and minds… not to make a school, but to hope for a refocusing of concern toward a “deeper” view, a departure from the merely literal, from the imitation or simple description of experience, a breaking down of perceptual limitations, a sense of urgency and desperation in the assault on reality — all matters of spirit and energy, of inner direction. (Rothenberg 59).
This sense of depth also seems to convey the uniqueness of the individual poet. Thus, “deep” image refers to inner depth and one’s poetic ability, though only within the mode advocated by Rothenberg. Later in the essay, he cites four additional concerns; limiting empirical language, clarifying the deep image as something in and of itself, “mode” as image, and naming of origins. The first concern should not surprise the reader. This has been a concern of poets of various types since the moderns.
The above quote should serve to clarify the nature of the deep image as he defines the term, though I would include the archetypal simply because people are capable of each conception, though clearly here he means something more generalized. The concept of image seems one aspect that exists as something different. Things as they are perceived is the way an image is created. Moreover, image is not prior to line or rhythm and it is not after. Rothenberg writes that
from the first opening into the poem, the referential elements are themselves sounds or patterns of sound and pulse… so that it’s still possible to think of the emergence of the whole poem (sound and “content”) as a concurrent unity. Something like this, anyway, is how I’d want to consider “form” in the poem: as a progression and patterning of all the elements of language and vision integral to the poem’s organic movement” (Rothenberg 61).
In a way, this description sounds much like the conceptions of Olson in “Projective Verse,” Robert Creeley in “A Note” and “A Sense of Measure,” or Denise Levertov in “On the Function of the Line” or “Some Notes on Organic Form.” This lineage of the concept of intrinsic form can be traced back from Charles Olson to William Carlos Williams approximately forty years earlier. Those who wish to witness a more thorough deconstructing of the origins of intrinsic poetics through the projective verse theorists to their true origins in William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound will benefit from reading Marjorie Perloff’s essay, “Charles Olson and the “Inferior Predecessors”: “Projective Verse” Revisited,” published in 1973.
The notion of the transcendental carries an almost indiscernible, elusive quality pertaining to not knowing what lies beyond the given as well as to those things that exist in nature as a point of interest or fascination. It is this aspect that infuses the fact and beauty of experience or thought with a sense of awe and wonder. Further grounding the material remains the idea of the regional, the power of place and its influence on the poet. The sense of history permits depth of character, a greater sense of belonging and a unique aspect not shared by other people.
Intuitively then, among these things I create, not actually intending anything other than what comes to mind in the moment and not feeling a great desire to logically form what results. This is a creative stage. I am not concerned with facts, only feeling and ‘sensitized thought’ (Simic 399).
Perhaps my initial process exists in a more abbreviated form of Seager’s description of Roethke’s second poetic process. The sense of being drawn into the creative act or knowing what prompts the flow is never the same. It’s irrelevant. Keeping the activity going is what matters. A person can only sense the general conditions which promote creativity and attempt to nurture them. Beyond this first stage, all else is known and just a matter of shaping material or revisiting the inspired state again and again until the work is complete. Learning about your own poetic process is as important for poets as studying the craft of poetry.
However, being an intuitive person doesn’t necessarily indicate an awareness of anything transcendent. This aspect of life has as its cause an education or life experience that have enabled people to see beyond the given toward larger human truths.
In speaking of the transcendental aspect of writing poetry, I am using religious language and if you did not know any better you would begin to interpret my statements as a seminarian’s tract or some similar theosophical pamphlet spreading some new age doctrine or uttering talk of “pleroma”. To be most accurate, the kind of education shared by the likes of Emerson, Thoreau and the Dial group was a Classical one, steeped in the study of all aspects of life; philosophy, religion, economics and science. They took this influence and applied that education to whatever aspects of life they found of interest. This kind of education has somewhat influenced me.
I can no longer experience life the same way as when I was a child, even though certain aspects of a childlike attitude may benefit creative processes. For the most part I am speaking of two things; first, attempting to describe my own experience, because I am the only one who can describe it to other people, and secondly, because of learning and the general changes this process causes or may cause in human psychology or rationality, I am not the same.
Jung believed that his concept of objective, analytical psychology would dramatically change the study of comparative religion. If a person truly understands the objective, scholarly study of religions or even selected basic writings in the social sciences, this kind of study will transform your personal beliefs about such matters. This doesn’t necessarily mean the individual finds answers.
This experience of deeper learning about religion is not typically new to people. However, we cannot say in the same sense that we suddenly see. This would be a dogma as any fundamentalist idea or belief. The truth is, because of the influence of science we begin to see the invented or constructed nature of ideas if we are inclined to think about such issues.
Sometimes life experience throws people from this worldview and they learn of harsher realities that they never knew existed, or life reveals an experience contradictory to their personal beliefs. This may dramatically alter a person’s way of interpreting experience. Regardless of how people arrive at the awareness of the possible difference among worldviews, there remains an intellectual common ground.
Art and our ability to understand it is one of the things educated people have in common. If this did not abstractly exist, we would not understand each other. Still, we speak about the same ultimate reality, of the same human phenomena, though we have been influenced to speak of our experience in a scientific way with analytical terminology, or of specific concepts and about historical groups of people who have revised even this conceptual framework.
This is the attitude I share with Emerson, though this remains a beginning, a point of entry, a way to access creativity and to discover new possibilities in various types of poetry.
In terms of poetic process, Jung’s typology forms the whole person, and in theory remains one way of understanding the interaction of types in human experience. In Psychological Types, Chapter Five, he says that the introvert and extravert tendencies of personality each remain within the person, one tendency remaining dominant as a primary personality trait (Jung 166-272). The poet of inwardness would be an introvert who goes into himself to gain insight of the various aspects of his human experience, emotions and feelings.
Creation of the work of art through poetry is the transcending of whatever tensions lie within. In offering this to all humanity, the poet of inwardness becomes united with all people. This gesture shifts the problem from inner conflict toward resolution, which remains an expression towards the extravert nature in such a way that in facing the other aspect, he transforms, if ever-so-briefly in the offering and becomes the other, the one engaging experience, reading the poem or listening. Only in this generalized, humanistic way, reading or listening, one communicates with greater humanity, other people unlike himself, could the type problem become relevant for poetic process unless other issues were involved.
This experience of the whole remains different for the reader. Jung writes in “Psychology and Literature” of the cultural/societal aspect, this
“re-immersion in the state of participation mystique is the secret of artistic creation and of the effect which great art has upon us, for at that level of experience it is no longer the weal or woe of the individual that counts, but the life of the collective. That is why every great work of art is objective and impersonal, and yet profoundly moving. And that is why the personal life of the artist is at most a help or a hindrance, but is never essential to his creative task” (Jung 105).
Would it be an accurate conclusion then to say catharsis in the reader remains prompted by “participation mystique” in these purely collective, human qualities? Two factors should be kept in mind regarding cultural changes from 1930 to the present day. First, readership is different now, more diverse, not in types but in motives; why people are reading and usually not for the purging emotions. Second, because of this condition, the reading experience is even more challenging for all to come away from the reading feeling the same emotion or even having the same thoughts.
Despite this change, I still think a certain degree of Aristotle’s concept of causes from The Poetics remains valid for the reader. Material, formal, efficient and final causes still pose a basic scaffold through which the poet can sketch their own contemporary poetics.
Notice also that in this context, Aristotle’s idea of empathy appears necessary for any type of inwardness to take place. Writing about things that could possibly happen, even though they may not have literally any connection to authorial biography or any other life reference, they remain just as plausible for poetic material. Keats and his “Negative Capability,” Wordsworth’s common diction and integration of knowledge, or Eliot’s depersonalization, seem to me to have very much in common with the idea of inwardness as a moniker used by those who couldn’t really classify them during their emergence in the development of poetry in America.
This “purging of the senses,” remains for Americans only experienced in certain types of narrative. In fact, if the reader identifies with any character to any limited degree, this expectation of literature achieves fulfillment. This aspect of literary experience, oral or otherwise, is allegedly a universal phenomenon — one of the aspects that transcend all human difference. One of Jung’s delineations is that this is a trait of “great literature.” If the work does not have this effect, it may be a lesser work.
Consistent with his theory then, a work of art may have “psychological” or “visionary” forms of gestalt which are conducive to their own, unique catharsis. The “psychological” form of catharsis would consist of the typical, expected purging, whereas the “visionary” form could be some resolution between the interplay of types or an issue related to thought itself.
We could even say that the catharsis of the “visionary” type is not really of the same kind as the “psychological” and that what one may experience is a form of realization pertaining to literary or personal reasons for complicating the reading experience. Seldom however, have artists created as if to illustrate merely how something is done in practice. Yet we can say that in the experience of reading “visionary” literature we take on a different role.
Our reading becomes more involved and we become more like scholars or detectives piecing clues together to form meaning from those confusing or unconventional aspects of the given work. Gestalt, here, however, also takes on a slightly different meaning to be inclusive of each. These types would then have slightly different criteria for each gestalt, creating a sense of pleasure, regardless that one type remains more coherent than the other. One could even say of this situation just as Jung has said of mixed psychological types, that works may exist with a fair mixture of traits and that this kind of literature would remain classified as predominantly one type or the other.
Aesthetic experience is unique in the sense that we cannot know each other’s thoughts until an attempt is made to communicate the process. Poetic process is that means through which the poet communicates experience; esthetic, literal, emotive or intellectual. In that moment when we attempt to communicate a great shift takes place. Whatever our unique, aesthetic experience, there remains within us only a statement to be communicated in the work itself, somehow faintly graspable depending upon the material and goal of the writer in question.
In The Principles of Literary Criticism, I. A. Richards maintains that there is nothing different about aesthetic experience compared to ordinary experiences. At first, I didn’t think the issue was that important, however, from the artist’s point of view, vital theoretical issues remain at stake. This process affects the poet’s own concept of the nature of themselves as poets. Further, to distinguish these two phrases as to avoid future confusion, aesthetic experience, which involves pleasure, interest and curiosity, is a more generalized idea compared to poetic process. More precisely, aesthetic experience prompts poetic process.
Jung writes that a “great work of art is like a dream; for all its apparent obviousness, it does not explain itself and is always ambiguous. A dream never says, “you ought” or “this is the truth.” It presents an image in much the same way as nature allows a plant to grow and it is up to us to draw conclusions” (Jung 104).
Aesthetic experience, therefore, means being affected by phenomena in a way conducive to the creation of some emotional statement or thought process. Poetic process is the specific set of phases or stages, itself generalized for all people, though also unique to the given individual, through which the poet creates the work of art that is the poem. The author says in “Psychology and Literature” that “the work of the artist meets the psychic needs of the society in which he lives” (Jung 104). Logically, if there exist varied people of different reading and thinking interests, the body of literature will naturally reflect this condition in the art of that society.
Of Olson’s best paragraph, in his essay quoted above, he raises many important questions, though in my opinion he doesn’t adequately address some of them. He seems to complain at first that if there is a “poetic process,” it must have a definite beginning. The only logical conclusion that I can make is that it does — in poetic experience. I will say more about this at the end of this paragraph. If we so choose to push the question, such an issue must only resolve itself with a phenomenological statement. We don’t really need to know where or when the poetic process begins because we often have instincts that guide us in the direction we feel we ought to work and that work always involves each aspect Olson mentions; “a phase, a rhythm, an image, an idea—anywhere” (222).
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———. “I Teach Out of Love.” Kizer, On Poetry, pp. 119-129.
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