Saturday, June 15, 2013

The New Age, June 12, 1913

My favorite part of this issue was the unsigned list of instructions for writing modern poetry, which I can't resist copying here:



1. The theme should be as sordid and revolting as can be conjured up in the imagination of the writer.

2. Poetic expression need not be sought. Lines of poetry here and there may be lashed together by masses of commonplace language, Vulgar and slangy expressions. Realism will thus be “ attained.”

3. The writer should never miss an opportunity of inserting an oath or profanity, thereby avoiding a fatal insipidity; especially for the sake of rhyme or of botching up a halting metre. It is well to bear in mind that the writer need not hold himself responsible for the utterances of his creations.

4. The rules of metrical composition need not be observed. Whatever the metre chosen, the verses may lack or be in excess of the prescribed number of feet for such metre, according to the pleasure of the author. Any tag will do for a rhyme. Prepositions and conjunctions are now allowed to be quite perfect rhymes, and, for the sake of rhythm, the back of a sentence may be broken in whatever place the poet chooses.

5. In the old term “ poetic licence,” the significance of the latter word may be extended to include all phases of its meaning.

This issue has several frontal attacks on modern poetry--there's another attack on Yeats, with Pater and Wilde thrown in for special scrutiny.  Frost's "A Boy's Will" is called "idle rubbish" in the reviews section.  They even print a letter attacking their correspondent, Richard Aldington--accusing him of rudeness.  The New Age thrives on controversy, and it's always fun to find things like this. 

Is there any chance Eliot read the instructions for modern poetry and decided to attempt to follow all of them?  I'm being facetious, but I like reading The Waste Land through these rules.  I'll make a lesson out of it someday: it's good to emphasize that modernism emerged against massive resistance, and even sometimes-allies could be enemies.  This is close to Ann Ardis' thesis in Modernism and Cultural Conflict.  Which is more a note for me than for you.  Oh public notebook. 

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