Six Fidelities of Poesie May 20, 2010

The Six Fidelities of Poesie: expression, idea, voice, style, original intent and process are not the six principles of how to write a poem or the six essential elements of a poem, but rather six principles of how and why we write poetry.

Six Fidelities of Poesie


Author’s Note: Caveat on Quoting Oscar Wilde. He had an opinion on everything and quoting Wilde is a little like looking in a mirror; it’s not necessarily contradictory, but the image is reversed and, given its angular penchant for refraction, what you see is totally dependent on your point of view.

Of those who speak of the Arts (be it sculpture, painting or poetry) their observations are as a bee, the same bee, gathering pollen from various flowers in the garden of Art. Likewise the cross-pollination of art and life has engendered its own cliché: that art imitates life and by example life imitates art. Or as philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, perhaps more clinically, [a]rt is not merely an imitation of the reality of nature, but in truth a metaphysical supplement to the reality of nature[1] As an example observation of art in life, by one of these ‘busy-bees’, in his book The Picture of Dorian Gray, Anglo-Irish playwright and author Oscar Wilde had his character, Lord Henry, say: What a fuss people make about fidelity! Why, even in love it is purely a question for physiology. It has nothing to do with our own will. Young men want to be faithful, and are not; old men want to be faithless, and cannot: that is all one can say.[2] Emotionally poets, the makers of poetry over the last fifty plus years, are polar opposites of Wilde’s “young men/old men lovers”.  As novices we wanted nothing to do with fidelity, we’d bridle at form and meter, desiring to trod our own paths, irreverent pioneers, though our lack of experience had us often plowing the same furrow, time and again whereas now as mature poets we’d found our experience as poetic-bounders often led us into strict fidelity to such principles as: expression, idea, voice, style, original intent and process.

Such principles become ingredient to the six fidelities of poesie outlined here. These ‘fidelities’, like art appreciation itself, are my considered opinions and subject to disagreement. Agreement is a two-way barb according to Wilde, [b]ad artists always admire each others work. They call it being large-minded and free from prejudice. But a truly great artist cannot conceive of life being shown, or beauty fashioned, under any conditions other than those he has selected.[3] Therefore, I will not be dismayed by your disagreement.

Though not one of the, to be enumerated, six principles of poetic faithfulness, fidelity to the name Poet is perhaps the sum in which these six principles reside. For to accept the name, Poet, is perhaps the single most important distinction a writer can assume. What we call or name ourselves is what we take ownership in… or as author Milan Kundera said of our fidelity to names, [w]e don’t know when our name came into being or how some distant ancestor acquired it. We don’t understand our name at all, we don’t know its history and yet we bear it with exalted fidelity, we merge with it, we like it, we are ridiculously proud of it as if we had thought it up ourselves in a moment of brilliant inspiration.[4] Yet, even as we all are, poetic-sons and daughters of Shakespeare, Dunne, Browning, Wordsworth, Whitman, Eliot and Cummings, what another calls you is never as important as what you name yourself. The poem Becoming[5] speaks to that point:


Becoming

invoking

the great I AM

is the first step

of creation.

His greatest secret is

revealed in His name,

and when I claim it

I become it.

in the act of claiming:

I am a Poet; I am!

Regardless, that the mere claiming of a mantle leaves open the question of whether one can successfully carry it (a question often best left to history), I submit that without claiming the name Poet no writer ever becomes one and those writers who deign to use the title or refuse the title, out of perceived vanity; do themselves and poetry a great disservice. It’s like the refusal of a compliment or a courtesy. It shows a lack of grace on the part of the refuser and a slap to the face to the one who offers it. The refusing of poetic respect is similarly baffling. Like the hard-working laborer who (greeted by a new younger co-worker, who having been raised to respect elders, [i.e. those with seniority] says Good morning, Sir) replies to a youngster, Don’t call me, “Sir,” I work for a living. That type of self-criticism or insensitivity is self-serving and usually a sign of insecurity, a proclivity unfortunately adhered to by authors and critics throughout the history of literature. Perhaps insecurity is at the root of all poetic insensitivity on the part of poets toward critics and audiences, critics toward poets and audiences, and audiences toward both.

Viewed properly the Six Fidelities of Poesie: expression, idea, voice, style, original intent and process, debunk, the erroneous, belief in (for some) the poetic necessity of insecurity. To not cure one’s insecurity as a writer is equivalent to giving ones poetic-life over to an internal prognosticator. In effect the poet who asks fortune-tellers the future unwittingly forfeits an inner intimation of coming events that is a thousand times more exact than anything fortune-tellers may say. The poet is impelled by inertia, rather than curiosity, and nothing is more unlike the submissive apathy with which he hears his fate revealed than the alert dexterity with which the man of courage lays hands on the future.[6] It is to this end, strengthening the internal poet, that these fidelities are enumerated. They are not the six principles of how to write a poem or the six essential elements of a poem, rather these are six principles of how and why we write poetry, how and why we should write and lastly how and why you as a poet should first, be true to yourself. Whether we came by that comment from Greek philosopher Socrates, Plato, or Aristotle or we take the admonition know thyself from the (6th century B.C.) inscription on the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi, Greece, the point is knowing your true self and being true to that knowledge of self is the single most important factor to securely laying claim to the title Poet. Self-knowledge is then at the heart of The Six Fidelities of Poesie: expression, idea, voice, style, original intent and process.


The first principle is that of fidelity to expression. Expression is essentially the inert having something to say combined with the action of saying something or the revealing in words the adroit intricacies of the imagination. Expression emanates from the inner self, from the poetic-soul, and is articulated for three purposes: self, audience, and commerce. Verity of self is the primal reason for expression. To speak or write out ones thoughts, though potentially self-aggrandizing, in its pure form is more self-affirming than self-promoting. The purely artistic expression is a subliminal mote under pressure that must bubble or, under intense pressure, burst to the surface and, once free of resistance, rise into the ether. To the poet it is enough that this mote has been manifest to the universe. This pure expression seeks not to wear the coat of many colors. Release is its honor not recognition. Expression for self might be termed natural expression . The opposite position might be argued by Wilde who, as one of his literary characters, said, [t]o be natural is to be obvious, and to be obvious is to be inartistic.[7] A second facet of expression is for the audience. Whether this expression is of or to the audience the poet prepares his poem with the audience in mind. In the latter, the poet is addressing the poem directly to the audience, a performance piece, spoken like a rhetorical question, not needing the audience’s acquiesce, tacit approval, or response. In the former the poem is speaking of the audience and as such, requires of them open ears with which to hear, open eyes with which to see and open hearts with which to receive. The third facet of expression is commerce. A poem expressed thusly views its outcome based on its commercial acceptability. Commercial may mean publication, award and accolade, or monetary remuneration. In each of these facets of expression, for self, for audience, or for commerce, a different engine drives the poet, if not the poem. To maintain fidelity to expression a poet must know self well enough to appreciate the purposes for why poems are written and be faithful enough to express those poems, regardless of an individual facet’s particular luster.

The second principle is that of fidelity to idea. It is critical to understand that expression derives from that mystical source the idea and that each idea has its own poetic intent. To the poet a poem’s intent is, a purveyor of motivation, its raison d’être. Intent is the poem’s vision that allows a poet to find its completion. This vision, the poem’s intent or idea, has nothing to do with the mastery, or lack thereof, by the poet. Poet Thomas Hardy once wrote, [m]y weakness has always been to prefer the large intention of an unskilful artist to the trivial intention of an accomplished one: in other words, I am more interested in the high ideas of a feeble executant than in the high execution of a feeble thinker.[8] I take this to represent that the poetic idea is elementally more important than its poetic execution. And though I do not excuse poor execution for a good idea, I can successfully mentor a poor maker of poems. What I cannot do with great success is mentor a poor maker of ideas. This principle of being true to the idea provides a poem with its stamina and locomotion, i.e., the transitive stirrings in the mind of the reader where passion is its brand. Accordingly, [b]e still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.[9] That was D.H. Lawrence’s method of operation. Ian McEwan, though, was wary of where ideas can lead and suggested about writing (particularly novel-writing), [y]ou enter a state of controlled passivity, you relax your grip and accept that even if your declared intention is to justify the ways of God to man, you might end up interesting your readers rather more in Satan.[10] My experience suggests this modus operandi is even more particularly inherent in poetry, for though prose may be deviously complex, its meaning is contextual. That is to say, poetry’s use of metaphor, for example, provides the reader with a many-prismed glass through which to view a poem’s idea thus its interpretation expands exponentially. Unexpectedly then fidelity to idea, the poem’s intent and where its interesting road leads, is key to finding that something new so Poundingly required by critics and editors. And if one needs a reason for pro-Pounding perhaps excursionist Lady Mary Wortley Montagu gives us a clue when she said, [w]e travellers are in very hard circumstances. If we say nothing but what has been said before us, we are dull and have observed nothing. If we tell anything new, we are laughed at as fabulous and romantic.[11]

The third principle is that of fidelity to voice. Next to fidelity to ideas, fidelity to voice is a very close cousin. Its import was not lost on Wordsworth as in his poem Home at Grasmere: Is there not / An art, a music, and a stream of words / That shalt be life, the acknowledged voice of life?[12]

Nor was it lost on author Henry Miller who linked voice and daring to imagination and godliness when he said, [i]magination is the voice of the daring. If there is anything Godlike about God it is that. He dared to imagine everything.[13] Voice is that indispensable governance that makes a poem identifiable to an individual poet; it is the poem’s fingerprint; it is the poet’s DNA. Find a poem’s or a poet’s voice and you have found its core constituent. It is that ineffable thing that differentiates poems and poets, those liked and disliked. This distinctiveness has consequences, as literary critic and theorist Harold Bloom commented, I realized early on that the academy and the literary world alike—and I don’t think there really is a distinction between the two—are always dominated by fools, knaves, charlatans and bureaucrats. And that being the case, any human being, male or female, of whatever status, who has a voice of her or his own, is not going to be liked.[14] Fidelity to voice then offers a poet the best opportunity to write distinctive poetry.

Fidelity to style, the fourth principle, is constitutional to a poem. Style is that breath-giving essence of poetry, it is the poet’s way with words; how one chooses them or phrases them. Style is often the critical point of interest for students of poetry and individual poets. Wallace Stevens said of style, it is not something applied. It is something that permeates. It is of the nature of that in which it is found, whether the poem, the manner of a god, the bearing of a man. It is not a dress.[15] What is it that permeates a poem more than the individual poet? Nothing. If fingerprints are the poem’s voice, then a poem’s style is the poet’s hand. Style is so intrinsically part of the individual that it is easier to find your own style than to copy another’s. Whitman put it this way; [h]e most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the teacher.[16] Novelist Katherine Anne Porter put it another way, [a] cultivated style would be like a mask. Everybody knows it’s a mask, and sooner or later you must show yourself—or at least, you show yourself as someone who could not afford to show himself, and so created something to hide behind. . . . You do not create a style. You work, and develop yourself; your style is an emanation from your own being.[17] Lastly, educator and author Meyer Schapiro’s definitional view is, [s]tyle is, above all, a system of forms with a quality and a meaningful expression through which the personality of the artist and the broad outlook of a group are visible,…communicating and fixing certain values of religious, social, and moral life through the emotional suggestiveness of forms. It is, besides, a common ground against which innovations and individuality of particular works may be measured.[18] Style then, like voice, is a non-fungible commodity. Nothing in a poem can substitute for style and as a commodity, for some it is as illusive as buried treasure and for others as a fickle as orange juice futures. Style, like voice, must be found and sometimes has an inglorious way of slipping away. If for no other reasons, these last two qualities prove a poem’s fiduciary heir is style and deserves the fidelity of all poets or to paraphrase artist Paul Klee, [h]e has found his style, can we do otherwise?[19] Penultimately, fidelity to style issues hard won dividends. According to author Raymond Chandler, [t]he most durable thing in writing is style, and style is the most valuable investment a writer can make with his time. It pays off slowly, your agent will sneer at it, your publisher will misunderstand it, and it will take people you have never heard of to convince them by slow degrees that the writer who puts his individual mark on the way he writes will always pay off.[20] Finally, an admonition about style from Wilde, [w]hile one should always study the method of a great artist, one should never imitate his manner. The manner of an artist is essentially individual, the method of an artist is absolutely universal. The first is personality, which no one should copy; the second is perfection, which all should aim at.[21]

A fifth principal would be fidelity to original intent. If the principles of fidelity to ideas and fidelity to voice are very close cousins, then fidelity to original intent is fraternal twin to fidelity to ideas. That each idea has its own poetic intent, as herein enumerated, is a given. Why then would any poet lose sight of that original intent? Philosopher Georg Hegel said, [i]t is a matter of perfect indifference where a thing originated; the only question is “Is it true in and for itself?”.[22] Here are four differing artistic views of origin: 1) from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., A thought is often original, though you have uttered it a hundred times.[23], 2) from Baudelaire, Nearly all our originality comes from the stamp that time impresses upon our sensibility.[24] , 3) from W. H. Auden, Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about.[25], and 4) from Salvadore Dali, The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to repeat it was possibly an idiot.[26] The commonality of these views is their reverence (disdain in Auden’s case) for originality, for the substance that is original, the innate origin. It is here in the holding dear of originality and intent that the poet applies the knowledge of the poetic idea, the poetic intent, the what was intended to be said or expressed to the knowledge of what is expressed. It is fidelity to original intent that circles the poem bringing poetic conclusion (knowledge of what you have expressed) out of poetic beginning (the knowledge of what you intended to express). What greater ambition could a poet have than that a poem finds its conclusion. Curiously fidelity to original intent is the propelling engine to poetic conclusion, the want of poetic intent to find its finale. To have expressed what one intended is a powerful confirmation of creation and over fidelity to voice and style, the only unselfish reason for poetic satisfaction.

Satisfaction is a key sub-element of fidelity to original intent. The poet should know when the poem is finished and should at that point be satisfied. Emerson points out three wants that can never be satisfied: that of the rich, who wants something more; that of the sick, who wants something different; and that of the traveler, who says, “Anywhere but here.”[27] Obviously, Emerson did not say, since I have not included the want of a poem to find its end among the three unobtainable wants then a poet who says what he intended to say should feel satisfied. But why not? If not then, at the point of having manifested one’s poetic idea, when will a poet feel satisfied? I would state categorically the unsatisfied poet was not true to original intent. Others would argue that a poet should be in a constant state of dissatisfaction, and always striving, never realizing poetic wholeness in a poem. To those who find themselves dissatisfied with or at the conclusion of their poems, I say eschew revision–write a new poem. I do not pretend to have all the answers. Creation, making, is, after all, dissatisfaction with what is. So if you are dissatisfied with your poetic effort, make something new. As Hemingway says, From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality. That is why you write and for no other reason that you know of. But what about all the reasons that no one knows?[28] Hemingway’s statement, I submit, is the essence of fidelity to original intent.

The sixth principle is fidelity to process, though separate, capitalizes on the other five fidelities. The test of a poet’s fidelity to process is similar to Thornton Wilder’s test of an adventure as pontificated by the character Barnaby in The Matchmaker, …when you’re in the middle of it, you say to yourself, “Oh, now I’ve got myself into an awful mess; I wish I were sitting quietly at home.” And the sign that something’s wrong with you is when you sit quietly at home wishing you were out having lots of adventure.[29] It is not my purpose here to describe the fully wanton variety of poetic processes extant. They are as numerous as whatever fulsome number of poets you can predict. However, discovering your process and being faithful to it will lift you out of Thornton’s test. You will know by being true to your process that each poem is an adventure and a worthy one at that. It is important to note that process will evolve and being faithful to process always involves allowing for that growth.

In order to grow, a poet should be aware of his or her level of poetic competence and make a commitment to its increase using the model below[30]:

The poet in his development, as with all types of learning [or learning stages], will as a matter of course traverse the standard model… This theory purports that we move through five stages of development when we learn a skill or task. These stages are: 1] Unconscious Incompetence; 2] Conscious Incompetence; 3] Conscious Competence; 4] Unconscious Competence, ultimately leading to; 5] Conscious-Unconscious Competence or Meta-Conscious Competence.

Using human expression in the form of poetry as the skill or task developed, in stage one – Unconscious Incompetence, the individual [future poet] is unaware of poetry or the writing of it and more importantly is unaware of this unawareness. In stage two – Conscious Incompetence, the individual becomes aware of poetry and the writing of it, attempts writing poetry and becomes aware that he has little or no skill at writing poetry. In stage three – Conscious Competent, the individual acknowledges he is not a poet, but wants to be and starts working on his skills. At this level poetry can be achieved through concentration, ergo, the individual becomes a poet with concentration. In stage four – Unconscious Competence, the individual has continued to practice what has been learned and has accepted himself as a poet because the learned skills have become automatically accessible and ideas become automatically expressible. The poet is now functioning as a poet without having to think about how to write a poem. In the fifth stage – Meta-Conscious Competence, the poet knows his voice, can express his ideas automatically in that voice while being consciously aware at all times of the unconscious mental processes or sub-conscious poetic abilities being utilized. This is the stage of the master-poet, an individual confident in voice, trusting that ideas are being freely intuited and expressed… all without thinking about, thinking about it. A poet in this stage of development is free of attention to detail. That attention is lifted to be aware of higher-level activities signifying mastery. It is in this stage that the poet is most able to express ideas with true artistry, to teach others by demonstrating that mastery while explaining the demonstration. It is in this last stage that a poet transcendsbecoming, not a crafter of poetry but a creator of poetic art.

Growth as symbolized by these developmental stages is elemental to the acquisition of personal knowledge. Fidelity to process is concomitant to personal and structured education. The reading and studying of poets, poetry, literature, dictionaries, and works of etymology, foreign languages, syntax, grammar, biographies, histories, and quotes is a passive key. These, whether in a formal or informal setting, provide fodder for the fires of process. Beyond the enhancement of knowledge, as fidelity to process, lies the proactive key of poetic experimentation. Experimentation applies the poet’s well of knowledge to current process thereby forcing it to expand, to grow. Growth also takes place in numbers, in the sheer weight of production and the frequency with which those numbers increase. Unlike Shelley’s vision of love, [c]onstancy has nothing virtuous in itself, independently of the pleasure it confers[31], artistic (in particular poetic) expression is aided by constancy whose over and over again coming to the idea and propelling it to its poetic conclusion makes fluid the poetic voice and the style.

Production, writing frequency, and volume do not occur in a vacuum, it is that part of fidelity to process that deals with commitment to writing goals. Many a poem has been written in the passion of the moment. Many a poet has stood poised in front of a blank piece of paper awaiting the foment of passion, for lightning to strike. To those poets whose fidelity to process involves waiting for lightning, they come to poetry only accidentally. The fully-realized, the meta-conscious competent, the master poet will create his own lightning by devising goals that place him or her in the most receptive place or position to be struck. The master poet also realizes that when lightning doesn’t strike, there are other things to write about than what only comes out of passion’s pen.

The last aspect of fidelity to process is its result, the finished, completed poem and where it goes. At some point in the poet’s life there is the realization that creation, though perhaps a solitary effort, is an effort that nonetheless should be shared. Fidelity to process, then, also includes the sharing of yourself as poet and your work, your poetry with the world. This should be done in the gifting of lines, the oral reading of your poetry, and the submission of poetry for publication. It could be argued that every creation brings joy, and joy should be shared. The pessimist could say, but what about the creation of evil? Hardy said, [p]essimism… is, in brief, playing the sure game. You cannot lose at it; you may gain. It is the only view of life in which you can never be disappointed. Having reckoned what to do in the worst possible circumstances, when better arise, as they may, life becomes child’s play.[32] I submit pessimists do not make very good poets for a true poet’s heart would say of the creation of evil; it is by the depths of evil I can better gauge and juxtapose the heights of goodness–that is truly joyful. Submissions subsequently lead to the last element of process, feed back and its incumbent recognition. Perhaps all poets are only seeking joy, the joy of creating, and the joy of sharing. Philosopher William James in a letter to philosopher Henri Bergson said what we, as makers of poems know to be true, [w]hat every genuine philosopher (every genuine man, in fact) craves most is praise—although the philosophers generally call it “recognition”![33] I deem poets to be James’ quintessential every genuine man and therefore craving of recognition. Fidelity to this aspect of process will bring recognition.

In conclusion, self-knowledge is proffered as at the heart of The Six Fidelities of Poesie and in the sincere heart of the Poet pulses the yearning of faithfulness, the passion for observing the duties of insight, and the correspondence with truth. This yearning, passion, and correspondence find their cohesion in the specific fidelities of poesie: expression, idea, voice, style, original intent and process. As addressed in earlier paragraphs, these six fidelities encompass the development of a poem from its inception in the mind of the poet to the completed poem. Being cognizant of the impact of each of these fidelities, being truthful to their attendant qualities allows the poet the best opportunity to write.


[1] Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), German philosopher. The Birth of Tragedy, ch. 24 (1872). Art is not merely an imitation of the reality of nature, but in truth a metaphysical supplement to the reality of nature, placed alongside thereof for its conquest.

[2] Oscar Wilde (1854–1900), Anglo-Irish playwright, author. Lord Henry, in The Picture of Dorian Gray, ch. 2 (1891). Fidelity: What a fuss people make about fidelity! Why, even in love it is purely a question for physiology. It has nothing to do with our own will. Young men want to be faithful, and are not; old men want to be faithless, and cannot: that is all one can say.

[3] Oscar Wilde. Gilbert, in The Critic as Artist, pt. 2 (published in Intentions, 1891). Bad artists always admire each other’s work. They call it being large-minded and free from prejudice. But a truly great artist cannot conceive of life being shown, or beauty fashioned, under any conditions other than those he has selected.

[4] Milan Kundera (b. 1929), Czech author, critic. Agnes, in Immortality, pt. 1, ch. 7 (1991). We don’t know when our name came into being or how some distant ancestor acquired it. We don’t understand our name at all, we don’t know its history and yet we bear it with exalted fidelity, we merge with it, we like it, we are ridiculously proud of it as if we had thought it up ourselves in a moment of brilliant inspiration.

[5] Robert J. Sadler (b. 1946), American poet, author, Becoming, rjs Poetic License #4121964 Volume 6, Chapter 2, Rima’s, and Other Thinga’s, pg 39

[6] Walter Benjamin (1892–1940), German critic, philosopher. One-Way Street, “Madame Ariane—Second Courtyard on the Left” (1928; repr. in One-Way Street and Other Writings, 1978). He who asks fortune-tellers the future unwittingly forfeits an inner intimation of coming events that is a thousand times more exact than anything they may say. He is impelled by inertia, rather than curiosity, and nothing is more unlike the submissive apathy with which he hears his fate revealed than the alert dexterity with which the man of courage lays hands on the future.

[7] Oscar Wilde, Gilbert, in The Critic as Artist, pt. 2 (published in Intentions, 1891). All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling. To be natural is to be obvious, and to be obvious is to be inartistic.

[8] Thomas Hardy (1840–1928), English novelist, poet. Letter, 8 July 1901 (published in Florence Emily Hardy, The Later Years of Thomas Hardy, ch. 7, 1930). My weakness has always been to prefer the large intention of an unskilful artist to the trivial intention of an accomplished one: in other words, I am more interested in the high ideas of a feeble executant than in the high execution of a feeble thinker.

[9] D. H. Lawrence (1885–1930), British author. Studies in Classic American Literature, ch. 2 (1924). Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.

[10] Ian McEwan (b. 1948), British author. A Move Abroad, Preface (1989), on novel-writing. You enter a state of controlled passivity, you relax your grip and accept that even if your declared intention is to justify the ways of God to man, you might end up interesting your readers rather more in Satan.

[11] Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689–1762), English society figure, letter writer. Letter, 10 March 1718 (published in Selected Letters, ed. by Robert Halsband 1970). We travellers are in very hard circumstances. If we say nothing but what has been said before us, we are dull and have observed nothing. If we tell anything new, we are laughed at as fabulous and romantic.

[12] William Wordsworth (1770–1850), English poet. Home at Grasmere (written 1800; published as The Recluse, 1888). Is there not / An art, a music, and a stream of words / That shalt be life, the acknowledged voice of life?

[13] Henry Miller (1891–1980), U.S. author. Sexus, ch. 14 (1949). Imagination is the voice of daring. If there is anything Godlike about God it is that. He dared to imagine everything.

[14] Harold Bloom (b. 1930), U.S. literary critic, theorist. Interview in Criticism in Society (ed. by Imre Salusinski, 1987). I realized early on that the academy and the literary world alike—and I don’t think there really is a distinction between the two—are always dominated by fools, knaves, charlatans and bureaucrats. And that being the case, any human being, male or female, of whatever status, who has a voice of her or his own, is not going to be liked.

[15] Wallace Stevens (1879–1955), U.S. poet. Opus Posthumous, “Two or Three Ideas” (1959; first published 1951). Style is not something applied. It is something that permeates. It is of the nature of that in which it is found, whether the poem, the manner of a god, the bearing of a man. It is not a dress.

[16] Walt Whitman (1819–92), U.S. poet. Song of Myself, sct. 47, in Leaves of Grass (1855). He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the teacher

[17] Katherine Anne Porter (1890–1980), U.S. short-story writer, novelist. Interview in Writers at Work (Second Series, ed. by George Plimpton, 1963). A cultivated style would be like a mask. Everybody knows it’s a mask, and sooner or later you must show yourself—or at least, you show yourself as someone who could not afford to show himself, and so created something to hide behind. . . . You do not create a style. You work, and develop yourself; your style is an emanation from your own being.

[18] Meyer Schapiro (b. 1904), U.S. educator, author. Theory and Philosophy of Art: Style, Artist, and Society, George Braziller (1994). Style is, above all, a system of forms with a quality and a meaningful expression through which the personality of the artist and the broad outlook of a group are visible,. . . communicating and fixing certain values of religious, social, and moral life through the emotional suggestiveness of forms. It is, besides, a common ground against which innovations and individuality of particular works may be measured.

[19] Paul Klee (1879–1940), Swiss artist. The Diaries of Paul Klee 1898–1918, no. 825 (1957; tr. 1965), 1908 entry. He has found his style, when he cannot do otherwise.

[20] Raymond Chandler (1888–1959), U.S. author. Letter, 7 March 1947 (published in Raymond Chandler Speaking, 1962). The most durable thing in writing is style, and style is the most valuable investment a writer can make with his time. It pays off slowly, your agent will sneer at it, your publisher will misunderstand it, and it will take people you have never heard of to convince them by slow degrees that the writer who puts his individual mark on the way he writes will always pay off.

[21] Oscar Wilde (1854–1900), Anglo-Irish playwright, author. Dramatic Review (London, 20 Feb. 1886). Style: While one should always study the method of a great artist, one should never imitate his manner. The manner of an artist is essentially individual, the method of an artist is absolutely universal. The first is personality, which no one should copy; the second is perfection, which all should aim at.

[22] Georg Hegel (1770–1831), German philosopher. The Philosophy of History, pt. 3, sct. 3, ch. 2 (1837). It is a matter of perfect indifference where a thing originated; the only question is: “Is it true in and for itself?”

[23] Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809–1894), U.S. writer, physician. The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table, ch. 1 (1858). A thought is often original, though you have uttered it a hundred times.

[24] Charles Baudelaire (1821–67), French poet. “The Painter of Modern Life,” sct. 4, in L’Art Romantique (1869; repr. in Selected Writings on Art and Artists, ed. by P. E. Charvet, 1972). Nearly all our originality comes from the stamp that time impresses upon our sensibility.

[25] W. H. Auden (1907–73), Anglo-American poet. The Dyer’s Hand, pt. 1, “Writing” (1962). Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about.

[26] Salvador Dali (1904–89), Spanish painter. Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, Preface (ed. by Pierre Cabanne, 1968; tr. 1971). The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to repeat it was possibly an idiot.

[27] Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. The Conduct of Life, “Considerations by the Way” (1860). There are three wants which never can be satisfied: that of the rich, who wants something more; that of the sick, who wants something different; and that of the traveler, who says, “Anywhere but here.”

[28] Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961), U.S. author. Interview in Paris Review (Flushing, N.Y., Spring 1958; repr. in Writers at Work, Second Series, ed. by George Plimpton, 1963). From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality. That is why you write and for no other reason that you know of. But what about all the reasons that no one knows?

[29] Thornton Wilder (1897–1975), U.S. novelist, dramatist. Barnaby, in The Matchmaker, act 4. The test of an adventure is that when you’re in the middle of it, you say to yourself, “Oh, now I’ve got myself into an awful mess; I wish I were sitting quietly at home.” And the sign that something’s wrong with you is when you sit quietly at home wishing you were out having lots of adventure.

[30]from, Essay On the Genesis and Birth of Fatales Rimas by Robert J. Sadler © 2000, 2001, excerpts published in The Raintown Review, a journal of metrical poetry, September 2000.

[31] Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822), English poet. Even Love Is Sold, a note from Queen Mab (1813). Constancy has nothing virtuous in itself, independently of the pleasure it confers, and partakes of the temporizing spirit of vice in proportion as it endures tamely moral defects of magnitude in the object of its indiscreet choice.

[32] Thomas Hardy (1840–1928), English novelist, poet. Note written 1 Jan. 1902 (published in Florence Emily Hardy, The Later Years of Thomas Hardy, ch. 7, 1930). Pessimism . . . is, in brief, playing the sure game. You cannot lose at it; you may gain. It is the only view of life in which you can never be disappointed. Having reckoned what to do in the worst possible circumstances, when better arise, as they may, life becomes child’s play.

[33] William James (1842–1910), U.S. psychologist, philosopher. Letter, 13 June 1907, to philosopher Henri Bergson (published in The Letters of William James, vol. 2, 1920). What every genuine philosopher (every genuine man, in fact) craves most is praise—although the philosophers generally call it “recognition”!

6 Responses to “Six Fidelities of Poesie”

  1. Alphonso Zimmerli Says:

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  2. Oscar Wilde Quotes Says:

    Would you mind if I use some of the info here, and I’ll leave a link back to you?

  3. Mckenzie Mansker Says:

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  5. Robert Sadler Says:

    McKenzie, thank you for you comment. As for ‘where did you get this information’ it comes from my personal writing experience and observations. Information, quotes or opinions, other than my own, are give appropriate attribution in the 33 footnotes at the end of the blog. I hope this helps.

  6. Robert Sadler Says:

    Christely78, thanks for your interest. Yes you may excerpt some of the information here with the appropriate attribution and link back to my website.

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