Tag Archives: poetry

Adorno, Shelley, and Universality

Both Adorno and Shelley play with the concept of there being a universality in poetry where a poet is able to represent these sort of opposing forces without explicitly defending one force or the other. However in Adorno’s case, he argues that it is possible for lyric poetry to be more compelling for one side even when its inverse is being spoken for or supported. He uses examples from Baudelaire’s works, such as a poem about a servant woman, to show how works of literature can speak more profoundly or truer to its unintended audience than to the actual subject of the work. To reiterate this, Adorno writes that “when individual expression. . . seems shaken to its very core in the crisis of the individual, the collective undercurrent in the lyric surfaces in the most diverse places” (46). While it may appear that a poet is emphasizing one particular part of life, he is actually  inviting the reader to absorb his words more deeply to see that he is trying to communicate a larger social statement. It isn’t what’s in the lyric poems, it’s what has been purposefully left out. In Shelley’s explanation, “[poet’s] exertions are of the highest value so long as they confine their administration of the concerns of the inferior powers of our nature within the limits due to the superior ones” (358). Due to the restrictions of the “superior” forces at work, a great poet structures his writing so that the “inferior concerns” are implicitly addressed. Although it may not be obviously stated or although it may seem as though he is appealing only to the superior, the poet has the unique ability to subscribe to both.




Adorno, Theodor W. “On Lyric Poetry and Society.” Notes to Literature. Ed. Rolf Tiedemann. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991. 46. Print.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. “A Defence of Poetry” The Critical Tradition. Ed. David Richter. New York: Bedford/St. Martin, 2007. 358. Print.

Adorno & Brooks

Adorno discusses the individualism of poetry, especially lyric poetry and how its effect is changed with its context to the reader. He says, “The lyric work hopes to attain universality through unrestrained individuation” (38). Adorno’s stance on the individual reading a poem is what makes it universal. This relates perfectly back to Brooks who discusses the truth of a work not by the reader’s response, but by its intent. (I can’t find the quote, I wanted)  He says that there is an ideal reader whose reading matters to a poem, but the individuals’ experiences or emotional responses to work aren’t what effects it. Adorno although agrees that the universal element of a poem is necessary to its importance, he makes the point to say that the universality of a poem is  altered by a social aspect. Adorno says that the way society conceives a work can manifest its meaning and transcend it.

The Infinite Poet

“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.

The Art of Lying

“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