Monday, September 10, 2012

The Agents of Destruction are Many

I'm still reading Irving Layton's Engagements. It's sometimes refreshing to read a straightforward invocation of art as the fight against everything that is deadening to life and experience. To wit:

The agents of destruction are many. Here are the names of several that modern poets have observed: trivialization, mindlessness, conformity, the loss of self in a civilization that grows increasingly purposeless and routine. Mental breakdowns are becoming more frequent and Western civilization seems to be enveloped in a Freudian sadness that assumes the world has become one vast sanitarium or hospital.

For a large number of people life has lost its savour and zest. The joy of living has gone out of them. They are weighed down by inexpressible cares and worries; they are repressed, anxious, and suffer from feelings of unreality. (47-8)

And poetry is the answer, Layton suggests: it "opposes the totality of the self to the creeping totalitarianism of the twentieth century." (I like that way of putting it a lot.) "It says to the harassed men and women of today: you must live fully and experience all that you can; only in the that way will you be living humanly." (48) It reminds me of that passage in Lorca's essay on the duende that gave me pause last year.

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