Monday, July 30, 2007

Yeat's Paradox & A Note on Process

In any case, the idea of art as a difficult task for the artist, who must contrive to make the difficulties look easy, not only dates from antiquity but is precisely exemplified by Yeat's handling of his couplets [in "Adam's Curse"]. Indeed, his doctrine leads to a further paradox, which is that his audience of inexperienced laymen, the bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen he speaks of, cherishing their worldly and practical values, and mistaking his art for something easy, dismiss it as frivolous and nothing more than the diversions of an idler. He is secretly, when not overtly, despised by the very people he is seeking to please.

-Anthony Hecht, "The Contrariness of Impulses," in On the Laws of the Poetic Art (Princeton University Press, 1995), p. 145.

I managed to get down a longish draft of an imaginary letter from Martin Johnson Heade to an American woman he was certainly attracted to, and with whom he may have had an affair while he was in Brazil. I seem to be able to carry these longer poems around in my head while working on the shorter lyrics, imagining and re-imagining the longer piece as I go, then getting the body of the poem down at length and in one draft, over the course of several hours.

I then go back and work through them over the course of a couple of weeks, let them rest for a while and come back again and again, trying to make the poem, somehow, right.

I am having a bit of luck here and don't want to break it; don't want to walk away from the work and lose the thread of the poem.

I don't much care right now if these poems are seen as the "diversions of an idler."


Blogger Jim said...

Hi Greg,

I am interested in how you became interested in Martin Johnson Heade.
I have long been intrigued with his paintings, and indeed, I recently saw two of his hummingbird paintings at the gallery of the University of Arizona in Tucson. The university owns them both. I suppose that you are aware of Theodore Stebbins' catalogue raisonne on Heade work? It seems to me too, that one of Dan Gerber's? books had a Heade marsh picture reproduced on the cover. I will have to look it up.


10:27 AM  
Blogger greg rappleye said...


I became intersted in Heade after reading "Heade Storms," an essay about Heade in John Updike's Still Looking: Essays About American Art" (Knopf, 2005).

It's a very good book.

3:55 AM  

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