Aphorisms from Adagia pt II

(a selection)


A poem should be part of one’s sense of life.
To read a poem should be an experience, like experiencing an act.
There is no difference between a god and his temple.
War is the periodical failure of politics.
Money is a kind of poetry.
Poetry is an effort of a dissatisfied man to find satisfaction through words,
occasionally of the dissatisfied thinker to find satisfaction through his emotions.
It is not everyday that the world arranges itself into a poem.
The death of one god is the death of all.
In the presence of extraordinary actuality, consciousness takes the place of imagination.
Everything tends to become real; or everything moves in the direction of reality.
There is an intensely pejorative aspect to the idea of the real. The opposite should be the case. Its own poetry is actual.
One does not write for any reader except one.
Every man dies his own death.
The writer who is content to destroy is on a plane with the writer who is content to translate. Both are parasites.
The thing said must be the poem not the language used in saying it. At its best the poem consists of both elements.
A poet must look at the world somewhat as a man looks at a woman.
To have nothing to say and say it in a tragic manner is not the same thing as having something to say.
The poem is a nature created by the poet.
The aesthetic order includes all other orders but is not limited to them.
La vie est plus belle que les idees.
Perhaps there is a degree of perception at which what is real and what is imagined are one: a state of clairvoyant observation, accessible or possibly accessible to the poet or, say, the acutest poet.
The ultimate value is reality.
Poetry is the sum of its attributes.
Poetry is a purging of the world’s poverty and change and evil and death. It is a present perfecting, a satisfaction in the irredeemable poverty of life.
Poetry is the scholars art.
The thing seen becomes the thing unseen. The opposite is, or seems to be, impossible.
To study and to understand the fictive world is the function of the poet.
When one is young everything is physical; when one is old everything is physic.
Hermit of poetry.
The tongue is an eye.
God is a symbol for something that can well take other forms, as, for example, the form of high poetry.
The poet is a stronger life.
The great conquest is the conquest of reality. It is not to present life, for a moment, as it might have been.
It is necessary to propose an enigma to the mind. The mind always proposes a solution.
The body is a great poem.
The purpose of poetry is to contribute to man’s happiness.
How things seem now is always a question of sensibility.
It is necessary to any originality to have the courage to be an amateur.
Life is the elimination of what is dead.

The fundamental difficulty of any art is the problem of the normal.

The poet is the priest of the invisible.

Society is a sea.

Metaphor creates a new reality from which the original appears to be unreal.

The acquisitions of poetry are fortuitous: trouvailles. (Hence, its disorder).

Exhibitionism attaches and is not inherent.

Romanticism is to poetry what the decorative is to painting.

The great poem is the disengaging of (a) reality.

The eye sees less than the tongue says. The tongues says less than the mind thinks.

Reality is the motif.

We have to step boldly into a man’s interior world or not at all.

It is manner that becomes stale.

The reading of a poem must be an experience. The writing of it all the more so.

In the world of words, the imagination is one of the forces of nature.

Words are the only melodeon.

Bringing out the music of the eccentric sounds of words is no different in principle from bringing out their form & their eccentricities (Cummings): language as the material of poetry not is mere medium or instrument.

Since man made the world, the inevitable god is the beggar.

Poetry sometimes crowns the search for happiness. It is itself a search for happiness.

God is a postulate of the ego.

Esthetique is the measure of a civilization: not its sole measure, but a measure.

Poetry must resist the intelligence almost successfully.

The romantic exists in precision as well as in imprecision.

Literature is based not on life, but on propositions about life, of which this is one.

Life is a composite of the propositions about it.

A change of style is a change of subject.

Poetry is the statement of a relation between man and the world.

The feeling or the insight is that which quickens the words, not the other way round.

A man cannot search life for unprecedented experiences.

In children it is not the imitation that pleases us, but our perception of it. In later life, the pejorative aspect of imitation discloses its inherent unpleasantness. To give pleasure an imitation must have been studied as an imitation and then it pleases us as art.

Everything accomplishes itself: fulfils itself.

The imagination is not the only co-relation of reality. Science etc.

The world is a force, not a presence.

Everyone takes sides in social change if it is profound enough.

Poetry is a search for the inexplicable.

Poems are new subjects.

Ignorance is one of the sources of poetry.

We never arrive intellectually. But emotionally we arrive constantly ( as in poetry, happiness, high mountains, vistas).

The imagination consumes and exhausts some element of reality.

On the bearing of the poet:
1. The prestige of the poet is part of the prestige of poetry.
2. The prestige of poetry is essential to the prestige of the poet.

Every poem is a poem within a poem: the poem of the idea within the poem of the words.

On the death of some men the world reverts to ignorance.

Poetry is the gaiety (joy) of language.

The interest of life is experienced by participating and by being part, not by observing nor by thinking.

Poetry is a health.

Poetry is great only as it exploits great ideas or what is often the same thing great feelings.

Imagination applied to the whole world is vapid in comparison to imagination applied to a detail.

Poetry is a cure of the mind.

The mind that in heaven created the earth and the mind that on earth created heaven were, as it happened, one.

Poetry is a response to the daily necessity of getting the world right.

A poem should stimulate the sense of living and of being alive.

Reality is the spirit’s true centre.

A poem need not have a meaning and like most things in nature often does not have.

Newness (not novelty) may be the highest individual value in poetry. Even in the meretricious sense of newness a new poetry has value.

There is nothing in the world greater than reality. In this predicament we have to accept reality itself as the only genius.

To ‘subtilize experience’ = to apprehend the complexity of the world, to perceive the intricacy of experience.

Poetry is often a revelation of the elements of appearance.

Literature is the abnormal creating an illusion of the normal.

Poetry is a renovation of experience. Originality is an escape from repetition.

Poetry constantly requires a new relation.

One’s ignorance is one’s chief asset.

1. God and the imagination are one.
2. The thing imagined is the imaginer.
The second equals the thing imagined and the imaginer are one. Hence, I suppose, the Imaginer is God.

Poetry is, (and should be) for the poet, a source of pleasure and satisfaction, not a source of honors.

Wallace Stevens


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