The Poetic Memory II

By Stu Whitley


This  is the second post in a four-part series.

Poetry is sometimes the casualty of an age where rational clarity is considered supreme. If the message of the poet is not apparent at the first go, chuck the damn thing. This, of course, ignores the obvious reality that to try and capture all that reposes within our innermost thoughts on a particular matter may not be easily condensed and dispensed as received wisdom. I think our ability to speak clearly on important things is seriously exaggerated. Kant observed that there’s no great art in being generally comprehensible if one renounces insight. He thought that the result was a bunch of patched up observations and half-reasoned principles, which he considered to be the enjoyment of “shallowpates” in “everyday chitchat”. Jacques Maritain wrote in Creative Intuition in Art & Poetry: The law of intelligible clarity imposed by the classical tradition has…been an occasion for innumerable mediocre poems…

If this is true of poetry, which is the most economical form of condensing expressed thought, it is even truer of memory.

don’t know much about the magic of memory. We know even less about its
physiology. Our brains endlessly trawl our experiences and randomly
snatch up words and images by some sort of neurological sleight of
hand, tucking them in the sleeve for future reference. How those

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