This is the most recent book i bought, about six weeks ago, and it’s taken me that long to read it, as opposed to the average of under four days per book over the past twelve years. Of course, i have been reading other things at the same time (it’s very rare for me not to have two or more [frequently up to half a dozen] books going at the same time), but i’m not claiming that as the reason; it is, rather, that i have taken my time to try and more fully understand what this book of criticism is about: If i want to write effectively, and oh i have longed for that most of my life, then it behoves me to pay attention to what people who read and think about what they’ve read for a living say. And so, what does this critic have to say about writing poetry and its place in the world?
Well, if i have understood correctly, Newton is saying that poetry (or perhaps all beauty; he may not wish to be restricted) is linked within us to the religious feeling or aspiration; tis is not to say that it is religious in origin, nor that the proper subjects of poetry are religious in nature, but that the impulsion towards religion in (at least some) people’s make up is similar, even related, to that towards poetry and beauty. He also argues, and this may be a different facet of the same point, that good poetry ought to be accessible to and appreciated by everyone, not just the special few: In fact, he is quite strongly against the current world of poetry ~ he calls it the poetry “scene”, with scathing quotes (those quotes are almost the only point of Newton’s style i disliked) ~ implying that it is incestuous, tasteless, and of no quality, or at very best, little quality. I have to say, i was quite happy as i read, as much i have read scarcely seems worthy of the name poetry, and i found on the couple of occasions when Newton compared various works that my judgement coincided with his prior to his giving his; of course, that could just mean that the two of us are wrong, but i enjoyed the feeling of being a bit vindicated with regard to my views of poetry.
Whether or not, of course, mine own poetry (as opposed to my views) meets Newton’s criteria of beauty is an entirely different matter. One with a resolution i’m not sure i’d be happy with ~ maybe one day i’ll get an objective view on it!