Friday, March 9, 2012


The authentic story of modernism is not one of continuity and emulation, but of violent rupture and hostility to tradition. Art should be oriented toward beauty... Mark Signorelli

Dr. Mattix and Mr. Signorelli clearly have a debate about beauty going on. The essence of the debate was inspired by a difference between these two gentlemen as to how poetry presents itself through poets of the modernist era. Signorelli illuminates his objections to Mattix and other followers of modernism in his essay on Form and Transendence: A Reply to Mattix. March 2, 2012 as follows:..

To say that form harmonizes or orders is to say that it is directed towards beauty, since beauty has traditionally been understood as a kind of harmony or order. Several authors——most notably Roger Scruton——have commented on the fact that, in the modern world, beauty is no longer an important category for art, no longer serving either as a legitimate aim for the artist, or a legitimate criterion for the critic. If this is true (and I think it is), then art, and poetry in particular, has forfeited the capacity for transcendence, the power to help ““elevate ourselves”” above an often ugly, often adversarial world. I think Dr. Mattix errs in not recognizing the revolt against meter as one element of the modernists’’ more encompassing revolt against beauty.


Enter David Clayton of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts who observes this discussion from afar while admitting the Need for Beauty and Form in Poetry in his March 7 article by that name;

 I want to say at the outset (of recommending Signorelli's article) that, as a general rule, I hate poetry. In fact my idea of perfect hell is to spend an evening at a poetry recital. I say that this applies generally because occasionally some do strike a chord and I love the psalms, which I am told are poems. I chant and read them just about every day..... I present it because despite what I have just written I am prepared to acknowledge that I am an ignorant philistine in this regard and that poetry, or some of it at least, does have something to recommend it, even if usually I can’’t see it. I like this essay because the arguments he makes in regard to poetry correspond very closely to what I argue in regard to art. Put simply, he says that the best poetry is the most beautiful poetry because this will communicate truth most eloquently. I would say that this is the poetry that even when read by someone like me, strikes to the spirit and is understood intuitively.


Finding myself to be somewhere between Mr. Signorelli and David Clayton when it comes to being attracted to poetry as an art form or for casual indulgence, I attribute this attitude most directly to my experiences in Poetry class in college. I couldn't avoid the class in college as I needed more semester credits to graduate. The Poetry class was empty and available. The lack luster professor to whom I and the rest of my classmates were chained during a lovely part of the day when we'd much prefer to be lawn lizards or on the way to the beach, not only did not expose us to Poetry that might inspire the nimble mind, he was a positive deadbeat lacking enthusiasm for anything - much less life.

           Woody Allen when asked what he most regretted in life
           reportedly said “reading Beowulf”.

Despite my college missteps with encountering much of an understanding of a poet’s life and work, I still harbor nascient beliefs that a dear Sister of the Incarnate Word’s ebullient attitude toward Poetry saved me from total rejection of the art form. Beowulf, for me and because of her, was not a dastardly adventure. It is very likely that these extreme experiences with poetry as between High School and College finds me perplexed about how much I would ever want to dip my toes in those waters.

Enter Dante. With this very tepid approach to that portion of my life that seeks out beauty, I must admit I have long been intrigued by Alighieri's Divine Comedy. This comes more from seeing attempts to depict this longest poem in English literature in carvings and paintings throughout Western Culture not to mention references in literature, that I've always wanted to be familiar with this poetic work of art. At long last! I have found a way to do so. Robert Royal's completely understandable and engrossing treatment of the Divine Comedy in his book:


 If I may say so, Robert Royal's book truly touches the transcendent qualities of Dante's work.. A beautiful book.

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