In his work, Shklovsky states that, “The language of poetry, is, then, a difficult, roughened, impeded language. In a few special instances the language of poetry approximates the language of prose, but this does not violate the principle of the ‘roughened’ form” (Shlovsky).
I found this work to be most interesting in the way that Shklovsky explains the form that poetry takes. He explains that poetry, like any art, must use techniques to “defamiliarize” the reader in order to allow him to consciously perceive the work. By using “roughened, impeded language,” Shklovsky explains that the poet uses this literary form in order to succeed in prolonging the time it takes to fully perceive it. Shklovsky also notes that “the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself.” My question to Shklovsky is, can’t a poem still maintain its aesthetic qualities without having to defamiliarize the reader? Can’t a poem still be as strong and admired with a rather simple literary form? Because personally, like many others, I have come across many simple poems with soft language or prose form, that have also prolonged my perception in admiring it.
In Victor Shklovsky’s writings, he recites how poetic form is tied intimately with artistic expression. From what I have gathered of his opinions, the use of imagery is essential in writing either poetry or prose. An author must view and recount an object as if they have never seen it before. This idea of “defamiliarization” is the key to describing and effectively portraying a narrative to the reader. Shklovsky writes, “I personally feel that defamiliarization is found almost everywhere form is found… An image is not a permanent referent for those mutable complexities of life which are revealed through it; its purpose is not to make us perceive meaning, but to create a special perception of the object – it creates a “vision” of the object instead of serving as a means for knowing it”. He requires that authorship and readership reexamine imagery and recreate it through a fresh lens. Art and form are established in this way and coexist together, generating a novel way to interpret and devise literature. He believes that the best writers are those who use this technique whilst writing. Artistic expression, in his opinion, carries the most weight and forces itself to be effective on the page.
Shklovsky, Victor. “Art as Technique.” Ed. David H. Richter. The Critical Tradition. Third ed. Boston: Bedford/St.Martin’s, 2007. 774-84. Print.
“Even in modern times, no living poet ever arrived at the fulness of his fame; the jury which sits in judgement upon a poet, belonging as he does to all time, must be composed of his peers: it must be impanelled by Time from the selectest of the wise of many generations. A Poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds; his auditors are as men entranced by the melody of an unseen musician, who feel that they are moved and softened, yet know not whence or why.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley, A Defence of Poetry (page 350, The Critical Tradition)
“The fat knight has his moods of melancholy , and the young prince his moments of coarse humor. Where we differ from each other is purely in accidentals: in dress, manner, tone of voice, religious opinions, personal appearance, tricks of habit, and the like. The more one analyses people, the more all reasons for analysis disappear. Sooner or later one comes to that dreadful thing called human nature. Indeed, as any one who has ever worked among the poor knows only too well, the brotherhood of man is no mere poet’s dream, it is a most depressing and humiliating reality; and if a writer insists upon analysing the upper classes, he might just as well write of match-girls and costermongers at once.”
Oscar Wilde. “The Decay of Lying.” In Intentions. New York: Brentano’s, 1905. Internet Archive. http://archive.org/details/intentionsdecayo00wild. 3–55 (PDF pages 33–85).
“A Poet, as he is the author to others of the highest wisdom, pleasure, virtue and glory, so he ought personally to be the happiest, the best, the wisest, and the most illustrious of men. As to his glory, let Time be challenged to declare whether the fame of any other institutor of human life be comparable to that of a poet” (361).
Poets are the most inspiring and memorable people to exist. The most iconic paintings will always be remembered through our eyes as they are forever referenced. Likewise, poetry is forever recited and while there are those who do not care enough to offer an opinion on a painting, the words of a poem affect us more still. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what does it mean when a poem leaves us speechless? As long as we record and remember history, poetry will live forever– additionally insured by the upsurge of social media. At a certain level, no other art form has changed the course of history the way poetry has. The fiercest, most heartbroken and angry change makers singe us with their words. I think of the Civil Rights poets and storytellers such as Langston Hughes, WEB Dubois, Maya Angelou, the Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish, Martin Niemoller’s Holocaust poem “First they came . . . ,” Carolyn Forche, and beyond these names are the other legendary Frost, Dickinson, Wilde, Yeats, Cummings, Whitman, Ginsberg, so on and so forth.
So a painter helped usher in a new era of painting styles and was lambasted and ridiculed and died poor, only to be remembered and heralded after her death. Or remember the black musicians who were the first ever to headline a show or perform with an all white band for an all white crowd, but soak into the lives of the poets who wrote honestly and realize the impacts they made.
Shelley, Percy B. “A Defence of Poetry.” The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Ed. David H. Richter. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007. 361. Print.
” All that I desire to point out is the general principle that Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life, and I feel sure that if you think seriously about it you will find that it is true. Life holds the mirror up to Art, and either reproduces some strange type imagined by painter or sculptor, or realizes in fact what has been dreamed in fiction. Scientifically speaking, the basis of life—the energy of life, as Aristotle would call it—is simply the desire for expression and Art is always presenting various forms through which this expression can be attained. Life seizes on them and uses them, even if they be to her own hurt.”
–The Decay of Lying, Oscar Wilde
There are many instances in modern times where one can argue that Life imitates Art. For example, the responsibility of fashion designers as well as fashion magazines is to create new clothing trends and to provide consumers with visual experiences of these trends (via runway shows or spreads in magazines). It is then the consumers’ job to take those pieces of art that the designers and editors created and compiled and to implement them into their own lives. However, it has to be noted that art does not just emerge from nothingness. Artists, whether they be poets or painters or musicians, draw inspiration from life and their own personal experiences. They also create their art with their consumers in mind. They often think about what will appeal to the masses and how they can do it in a way so that they won’t ruffle anyone’s feathers. I think the issue of delegating whether or not one form imitates the other is too complex to elect one being superior of the other. Instead, there are various circumstances in which either one can be argued for.
Wilde, Oscar. “The Decay of lying.” The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. By David H. Richter. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007. 491. Print.
“But in modern days while the fashion of writing poetry has become far too common, and should, if possible, be discouraged, the fashion of lying has almost fallen into disrepute” (Wilde 9).
Lying has always been presumed as a negative thing. You’re taught at a young age that lying is wrong. Then we are also taught to have and share our opinions, which are not always accurate to say the least, but wouldn’t be labeled as lies. As stated above, poetry is held in high esteem, yet lying isn’t. To be technical one could say any fiction is lying, although each bit of fiction comes from some part of the truth. So if one thought this way, anything not entirely true or accurate is a lie. Therefore poetry would be considered lying. But perhaps this quote could sway the negative connotation lying has. Yes maybe poetry & art & fiction are lies, but who says thats a bad thing? Especially when the Art of Lying sounds so intriguing.
Wilde, Oscar, and Percival Pollard. Intentions: The Decay of Lying, Pen, Pencil and Poison, the Critic as Artist, the Truth of Masks. New York: Brentano’s, 1905. Web