Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Notes on the Sublime

I've been reading Keats. Also, I found two articles about melancholy-- unfortunately I cannot locate them online any longer-- which caused me to reconsider Keats and the sublime and how the sublime affects us as poets today. The upshot is that the reason we write is in our relationship with the sublime and its counterpart melancholy. It seems they come together.

Poetry is a reflective art and the act of writing is a profound reflection with a pen. Is is, as reflection is, without direction. That is, the poem in first draft begins without any knowledge of its route or of where it is going. If you know where the poem will go, if you think you know where you want it to go, if you even think you know what it will be about-- YOU MUST QUIT-- until you abandon those notions.

Reflection is an ordered process which we cannot know the ordering of. Writing a poem is a profound, nearly mystical, ordering of reflection. It is a tangent of the abyss loaded with awe and unknowable until the last line. It requires surrender and achieves the sublime but never without the concomitant imbuing of melancholy. This is not joy. It is sublime. The great part about it is that it calls to us and, if we are to get it right, we must attempt to write without ceasing.

Another great feature of writing poetry is that we may actually engage the sublime without ever achieving greatness. The sublime is available to the worst of us writers if we can pursue it honestly and with exacting craft.

So long for now.

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