The Art and Artifice of Poetry | Hamza Yusuf & Scott Crider

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Event Name: The Art and Artifice of Poetry | Hamza Yusuf & Scott Crider
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Art and artifice of Poetry

Youtube Link: The Art and Artifice of Poetry | Hamza Yusuf & Scott Crider


Moderator: <> recently wrote an article for us for Renovatio and you make an arguments about poetry so maybe you could just give us a little summation of that

Scott Crider: Certainly, I'm very interested in the topic of "What makes a human being, a human being".  And I wanted to identify language which I quite naturally rushed to as that which makes us human and ie we are the

we are the animal with language but then I was remembering encountering this remarkable text at the beginning of putnams art of posy.  And in it, he clearly sees language as central to humanity that that really constitutes our humanity as such but he does not focus on the the rhetorical aspect as much as on the poetic which I found really interesting and so I wanted to explore a reading of his text and to just draw from what he says an argument about why it may be that it's poetry that actually makes us human a particular form of language which I think he does associate with rhetoric

but he tensed and continues to throughout it to emphasize poetry itself

and I decided after following his reasoning that he thinks this is the

case because poetry is particularly concentrated form of ordering language

metrically stands a eclis figuratively and I've begun to see that he thinks

that that ordering has a way of reordering the human soul of the one who

participates in poetry and then reorders the the soul of of others as well and so

it becomes a social order and I was really quite stunned to see

that Putnam thinks that poetry more or less makes us human by remaking us

through the poetic art itself one of the interesting things about human beings is

that I don't think there's a culture or civilization that doesn't have poetry

it's a it's really an argument for a universality of nature that there is a

human nature because and and the interesting thing is almost every

peoples and cultures certainly the ones

that all the ones that we know have the poetry is very similar it's about three

seconds for each line and it begins hundreds of years before I mean we have

recorded poetry from China in like I think 500 BC and a homer obviously and

in the in the Greek tradition is even earlier and another aspect that too

fascinates me personally is that arguably every single civilization

because we have Aboriginal peoples and then we have city people people that

create civilizations of very complex aggregates of people living together and

that all of those civilizations are prefaced with great poetry mmm

so for instance if you look at the Greeks I don't think I think it's

arguable that you know you cannot have Plato or Socrates without Homer and and

the number of times that they quote Homer that's right as a source book and

in in the in the Islamic tradition the very first book is the Quran but the

Quran is preceded in almost immediately

the the the the hundred years before the

Quran is the pinnacle of Arabic poetry

and right before the the Quran emerges

was considered they had reached

Acme of poetic prowess the famous ODEs

the seven ODEs that hung in the Kaaba

these were the great they call them

heceta and and then if you look at

European civilization I mean arguably

are in Norton's anthology because with

the Song of Roland you know our

literature begins with a song of Roland

and then the the English Shakespeare is

and Marlowe and all these great poets

Ben Jonson they precede the the King

James Bible I mean it's just amazing

that the King James Bible which is

arguably what created English civilized

in my trouser before that and be a wolf

even before that but arguably

the King James Bible does so much for

America without the King James out we

don't have Abraham Lincoln we don't have

so many of the rhetorical greatness that

the civilization produced yeah the point

about Homer is extremely interesting

because it immediately raises the

question what do we mean by poetry and

on the one hand we do mean measured

speech and so we are yeah we are talking

about dactylic hexameter verse so on the

one hand we recognize that Plato's own

understanding of music is itself arising

from Homeric poetry that is is musical

accompanied or not it's a lie exactly

because meter meter itself is a kind of

lyre within the language but then of

course Homer is also a memetic artist so

not just that it's verse but that it's

mimetic or representational of human of

human action and what I find

tremendously compelling about the

antagonistic relationship between Homer

and especially Plato and you're

absolutely right Socrates will quote

the Socrates the character will quote

Homeric verse regularly but what I find

so intriguing is that it's quite clear

that Plato arguably the first writer of

philosophical texts is clearly imitating

homer and not just topically but by

fashioning works that have been

influenced by Homeric fashion sure one

of things I like to point out to

students is that's why he wanted the

poets exiled so they wouldn't see yeah

that's right that he was stealing from

them but also that he's fashioning a new

form of poetry

it seems naive to me not to recognize

that when he critiques Homer as a poet

in the Republic he knows that his

audience realizes that the Republic

itself is a poem it's narrated my

Socrates that's the dramatized narrator

he says I went down to PI Reyes the

other day and you realized that if you

were to explore Greek literature and ask

where have we heard someone tell their

own tale before about going down it

becomes quite clear that he realizes

that his audience will know that he's

imitating he's imitating homers

representation of Odysseus telling his

own tale at the fire key in court and so

I think that Plato actually wants to

write a new form of poetry but the

condition of possibility for that is is

is clearly is clearly homer and it's

that that quality of making making music

of fabricating through this mimetic art

of representation worlds fictional

worlds in which we can participate and

observe and be moved by characters who

who are not people but resemble people

it draws us into a kind of

intelligibility of human action and our

our compassion so often in response to


to their suffering that that I think may

actually be central to humanity which

might indicate why it's universal well

why indeed storytelling in some form or

another is is there in every culture we

encounter and I think a lot of people

have pointed this out throughout the

ages that we speak rhythmically that

human languages by its very nature


a lot of people are completely unaware

that Shakespeare is actually in verse

it's true because it's so natural to be

or not to be that as the good version it

just it flows trippingly off the tape

does indeed and and you can scan parts

of Lincoln and Melville absolutely I

mean you can scan parts of what we're

saying no doubts it's just

especially iambic because this is the

the the meter of the English language

tends to fall into the iambic but the

the use of meter in conveying meaning

and before because I want to extend

about poetry extend it beyond verse

because certainly it you know the Greek

concept it comes from a word which is

basically about artifice to create

something to make something and and

certainly imaginative literature is all

if it's good if it's great it reaches a

level of poetry but the epic poem which

obviously homers our greatest in in

Western civilization the epic poem it's

there's so few people have been able to

do it and it's been tried many times the

last time we had we we actually had a

caracal character in early American

history Joel Barlow

do you do I don't know he's famous for a

poem called Hasty Pudding which is very

often anthology

he was part of the Connecticut wits he

was a friend of George Washington but he

had aspirations to be an epic he wanted

to be America's epic

and and he attempted but it's it's it

was a failed attempt and it's it's just

very interesting then what's called the

noble voice you know that that was one

of them Stringfellow bar I think wrote a

book called the noble voices Ono Van

Doren actually about the epic poem why

is the epic poem so difficult to to do

no that's a wonderful that's a wonderful

question at least in literary studies we

tend to assume that the epic poem took

up took up residence if you will in the

novel and so that the novel began to do

the work of the love of the epic poem

but what's interesting about that is

that the novel is really quite

essentially composed of prose it's its

body if you will is a prose ybody

right whereas the the epic poem is in is

in verse and so a lot of people will

suggest that that may be for example

Wordsworth's prelude was the last great

epic but we actually I think live in an

age of a great epic poem derek walcott

so marrows which is a magnificent

treatment of life in in the caribbean

and and takes up a number of questions

and does so by means of a central

character named - he'll clearly named

for achilles and is always running a

Homeric parallel along his own quite

distinct contemporary Caribbean culture

Dante - is quite influential in that in

that poem but I I think it's very

difficult to do of course in part

because readers are not accustomed to

reading verse as often as they used to

be and expect their stories to be in in

prose and so when people read literature

they tend to presume that means reading

novels imaginative

literature is I won't say it's reduced

to novels but that's that really is the

form of literature people most gravitate

toward in part because we haven't taught

enough people recently how drivers

needed to write no that's exactly right

one of these is an art that has to be

taught one of the things about well not

necessarily I mean there there are

people that do naturally the Arabs are

amazing at that I know some pretty

sophisticated Arabic poets that that

really don't know the prosody of and

it's it's like Greek it's not syllabic

so it's it it's not accentually it's

it's related to the actual duration of

the word so it's long short as opposed

to light heavy or heavy light or heavy

that doesn't surprise me though actually

because as you were saying it indicates

poetry itself indicates some natural

talent for it right which means that the

measure in language is natural to

language yeah exactly and some people

will have an extraordinarily whole

musician powerful natural gift with or

without training but but but art art

will improve it right so even those

without as much talent can have that an

element proved through art you often

hear about musicians that we would

recognize as clearly quite talented who

don't know music my first thought is

always what if they did how would it

change how would it how would it change

what would be the accomplishment if all

for the Beatles actually knew how to

read music well I'm used to the song Cat


I heard him once say that he found it so

difficult to learn other people's music

so he just decided to write his own

and I thought that was really

interesting because one of the things

about classical musicians is that all

they loot they start from day one

learning not really how to make music

but how to imitate music and and this is

something that the pre-modern world was

obsessed with with mimesis with its

artifice with with actually one of the

things was very common they the idea of

creative writing would have been insane

to to anybody before the 20th century

that the idea that you could teach

people how to write what you could teach

them to do was how to imitate and and so

they would you know have a sentence like

when in the course of human events and

then they'd have to the student would

have to write a sentence with completely

different words but following the form

of that sentence and and so artifice was

not a negative thing whereas today it's

become a very negative thing and I think

one of the tragedies of a lot of modern

especially the young people i I actually

think it's it's really unfair to them to

encourage them to write poetry because

99.9 percent of it is is tripe and and

they're not because their self-esteem

has to be boosted we're not allowed to

actually say that's doggerel and it's

complete rubbish and we have to say gee

that's wonderful great you know a way to

go and instead of doing the traditional

way which would have they would have

memorized great poetry and and

internalize it I mean we talk about

learning something by heart it's such a

beautiful idiom the idea of

internalizing something and one of the

things that the Arabs say that if you

want to be a great poet memorize the

corpus of a great poet and then forget

it that's right and I think Dylan to me

who you know there's a lot of debate

about Dylan but III really do think he

he's he will be in the Canon that's my

do and and and and there there are

people like Rick ceteris prefer Riggs

and others I just read a book about him

why Dylan matters from a Harvard

professor making that argument and I

think the Dylan when he came to New York

I think he knew 200 Woody Guthrie songs

and he was basically I've got three

imitative using ramblin Jack Elliott s--

style and then the other major influence

on him was Hank Williams who is also a

really I mean I think quite an

extraordinary lyricist Rick said makes a

make Sakai heard mix make this case

actually in public that uh that he

thinks he's influenced as well by a

number of a number of poets including

including Elliott this this DynaMed I

mean he read Verlaine Rambo he was hero

definitely had a big this dynamic of

imitation up to a habit and then a habit

which is no longer consciously imitating

and then becomes innovative and I think

is actually the classical model for for

education for education itself it's

interesting that we're talking about

teaching people how to write but of

course we also want to make readers and

so I think because of a fear frequently

of the massive technical vocabulary

that's often involved improvident

prosody people will be worried if you

will about about introducing young

people to to poetry but I think it's a

mistake because for for one thing you

cannot suppress it right so so in fact

the desire for rhyme which is a

different kind of chord than then the

most most poetry globally is is in blank


so rhyme is is Chinese poetry is

definitely the Arabs are obsessed with

Ryan yeah there's a great scene in Dead

Poets Society where the character that's

played by Robin Williams Robin Williams

rips out that you know that kind of

Cartesian analytic approach the X and

the y that's right and whether a poem is

great and

even though the message of that film I

didn't like but but that one scene I

really appreciate it because I remember

very clearly the first time a poem hit

me in the gut like I was in eighth grade

hmm and and and it was a literature

class I we I was actually at a

progressive school where they had four

quads and so based on your aptitude you

went like they had a quad for it was

actually pretty horrific now and I think

about it this social engineering but

they had a quad for math and science

they had a quad for arts and music and

things and then they had a quad for just

like vocation well these are like eight

so the students were divided by yeah and

so I was in the language arts down quad

but I remember clearly reading

Ozymandias and it was just it just

really affected me you know in such a

deep way and that was the first time a

poem had ever done that that's for me

and well I was just gonna say and I

don't think had it been explained to me

in that x/y that's ripe thing it

wouldn't it it was a gut reaction I

think the question is in whether but

when pedagogically I actually I actually

do think that we should bring the art to

the to the students on the other hand I

know we have to we have to do it in a

way that actually killed doesn't kill

the spirit that that that recognition

that you had in your heart like rhetoric

you know one of the things about

rhetoric that when you learn all the

tricks it can it can it can almost take

the magic okaylet but it but if if you

if you it can also have the opposite

effect where you really appreciate the

artifice where you really appreciate

what a master is doing

and when they're when they're true

masters there's a reason why somebody

like Frost will go from it I am to

anapest in in I mean he knows what he's

doing because to him the the the form

was actually sometimes he said that a

great poet for him the form is surpasses

the importance of the content and and I

think there's a lot of truth to that I

think I think Shakespeare I mean you can

see Shakespeare is having fun with

language you know he's you can see his

tongue in cheek you know a horse a horse

my kingdom for a horse I mean you can

hear the horse trot you know and it's

such a wonderful

so to understand what he's doing yeah

you know with like a kind of spondee

type of and you it's interesting they

said you can hear it which means that

that memorization is not enough actually

what we want to do I think as well is

that once a student has memorized a poem

we want them to deliver it but when we

want them to recite it and it's there I

think where the vocabulary comes in

right as a useful way to explain the the

recitation that they're that they're

doing I think we don't do enough with

delivery unfortunately it is very

important it's almost nixed from the

Canon no that's right we live we live in

a loud culture the volume may not have

ever been this high in human culture but

the discrimination of sound from sound

act yeah the last two cannons are really

they've been mixed and and they're it's

I mean all of it really very few people

learn the invention which is so central

I mean the the the you know the first

and the dominant you know definition but

then comparison and and and in the in

the in the in the topics of invention

comparison is is that's the bread

but ER of great poetry the conceit

finding two things that are so

dissimilar and yet bringing them

together in a way that's the aha moment

shall I compare thee to a summers day

like me in fact in the poetics Aristotle

says and this I think actually confirms

something you were saying before he says

that the power of of metaphor can't be

taught and I'm not convinced of that by

the way but it's a very interesting idea

that in indeed the ability to see

counterintuitive likenesses which then

become quite intuitive is is a real gift

but there's no doubt there's no doubt

about it a figuration figuration is

crucial and metaphor metaphor central

but I still think a lot about this need

to ask students to to stand and to

deliver to use another teacher movie

that that I enjoy and that is to ask

them to speak because what I office of

assertion no that's right more and more

what I find is that the that students

will that was a plug for your book thank

you I appreciate that the students more

and more actually have trouble

articulating them themselves and again

it's not because they don't have often

quite very intelligent and interesting

things to say but they're frequently

intimidated by public public discourse

they're exceptions no doubt it seems to

me that the that any number of young

people who are particularly naturally

gifted at it yeah but I think to to ask

them to memorize so that they don't have

to access their phone but to ask them to

memorize and to ask them to recite and

to recite artistically I think is is

itself a great gift because at that

point they're being given their own

voice but it's a voice that's being

educated by by poetry itself I I make

students memorize to their chagrin in

every class that I do they have to

memorize and I incorporate poetry and

all I had

when I taught astronomy I had a book on

all the the poetry to deal with the

Stars and when I taught ethics they read

The Merchant of Venice so I always I

always have poetry and bring it in and

corporated I think it's really important

I think one of the things about did you

use sonnet 116 for the for the astronomy

course I I can't remember I actually had

a book that was just poems about the

Stars but one of the things about poets

I think is they just have brilliant ears

because people are saying poetic things

all the time

there are children are saying poetic

things I was I was at the grocery store

the other day and there was this elderly

I think she was probably Filipino

American lady and she was a little plump

and and she was in front of me and her

and her husband or significant other

showed up she was about to buy things

and he showed up with a Ben & Jerry's

Cherry Garcia you know and she looked at

it and just her eyes lit up and she said

oh my favorite and she said but I've

gained so many pounds eating that but

happy pounds you know and I I think

that's what Dickens was able to do he

just listened to people's conversations

because one of the things that that's so

clear from great poets is their

characters are so different and when a

bad writers always you feel the same 'no

sits right in the characters whereas

great writers are clearly I I once saw

somebody he was reading Dostoyevsky's

the brother to cameras off at the

airport so I just said how's that book

going for you and he just he put it down

he looked up he said this is not fiction


and that's what great poetry is not

fiction in that way it's like mythology

you know it's the mythos my father's

definition of mythology was too true to

be believable

and and and I think I Dylan you know

there's there's a there's an old skit

from a from a program where where they

have Dylan at would he got through his

bedside you ever see that know what were

you know they're actors and he says

how's things going woody and he's like

the answer is blowin in the wind and I

said I'm so sad to see you and this he

said don't think twice it's all right

he's like writing it down and you know

it's it's obviously making fun of

Ginsberg once asked him do you think

you'll ever be tried as a thief and and

but I think that's what Dylan had that

year you know I was so much older than

I'm younger than that now I can hear

somebody saying that in a conversation

definitely and and and he's got his

notebook out so it's I think that's the

in some ways the gift of the poet is

that they're showing us something about

the world that we we we might not have

thought about

it's like van Gogh because painting is a

type of poetry as well you know when Van

Gogh paints old shoes and you it forces

you to look at those shoes and you'll

never look at a pair of old shoes the

same way it's right and I a friend of

mine we were in West Africa he's a

brilliant photographer Peter Sanders and

he he took a picture of this old ladder

that that was literally two sticks with

other sticks tied together on a rope and

it was up against an Adobe house and

this was it was a primordial ladder

right really just it must have been the

first ladder must've looked like that

and I actually had seen that matter

several times but I never really looked

at it and his photograph forced me to

think about that that and I think you

know when Emily Dickinson says something

like there's a certain slant of light

winter afternoons that oppresses like

the heft of Cathedral to

that slant of light winter afternoons

will never be the same he's right we all

know it yeah know it in a new way in a

new way and that's the concern

you know the conceit thereof of death

and you know the declining day of a

winter afternoon but I think that's the

paradox of poetry that though it frees

itself from the real it ends up

revealing the real and so what I have

more and more come to believe is that

Aristotle is right that poetry is

actually more philosophical than history

yeah because it's not exactly Universal

it does it's not as bound to the actual

particulars and in that imaginative

transformation is a displaced

representation that we then can

encounter without the difficulty of

encountering ourselves directly and

that's the catharsis I mean that was the

whole event whatever was happening at

the amphitheater in Greece the

experience I mean these were really

religious experiences and and did the

the revelation that occurs not just in

the play but in the spectator the one

that's experiencing the play that

internal revelation the plays the thing

wherein I'll catch the conscience of the

king that that there's something that's

revealed in the play that that

corresponds to something being

potentially being revealed in in in the

south there's a great boar head story a

knight in Cordova have you ever read

that story not recently I don't he you

know he's got a very wheeze even

LaRoche's is reading the poetics and

he's having a really hard time

understanding you know what what

Aristotle is talking about

and because the Arab tradition did not

have theater hmm and so he has to go to

a dinner and he's not really happy about

it but he goes he goes to the dinner and

and they're having conversation about

whether or not jahaly poetry was still


this pre-islamic poetry at the 7th is

6th century and 7th century Arabia was

relevant to endow Lucien's who were

living in a completely different culture

and he quotes and you know Bohr has is

always mixing reality with him with his

own imagination but he quotes a famous

poet Zuhair from the the the seven ODEs

and about that that he saw death like a

blind camel that fate you know it was

like a blind camel it just it just

stumbles and did camels really have

anything to do with us here in Cordoba

or not and so they're debating this then

the the conversation turns to the this

character who's just come back from from

Persia and so they ask whoa what did you

what did you see in Persia so he starts

talking about how he saw play and

because the the Persians do have a

tradition of passion plays and and so

they're asking what's a play and he

begins to explain it's these people get

together on a stage and they and they

act out a story and they're all like

that's ridiculous like who would believe

something like that and he said well

that's just it you start believing it

the suspension of disbelief and then and

then a light goes off in in 'verily is

he he he realizes what Aristotle was

trying to convey and is it's a beautiful

story oh I'm definitely gonna have to

read it but that that displacement which

then allows us to recognize ourselves in

characters and their actions who who

resemble us but are not us I think is

extraordinarily liberating right more

and more realized how difficult it is

for any of us to understand ourselves

without without some way of doing it in

which we don't have to look directly at

ourselves and so the therapy of drama

the therapy of both tragedy

how many actually it seems to me is that

we are liberated from ourselves even as

we're seeing versions of ourselves in in

the mimetic in the mimetic world I think

Shakespeare is particularly good at that

indeed especially with respect to

getting his own play going and then

establishing a play within a play from

which characters will learn or not learn

about them about themselves it's an

obsessive technique of his well and I

think whether him to talk about and he's

forcing us to to see the play within our

own play I think he's you know he it's a

platonic idea that that this is that

there's something else going on

alongside this no that's right

this experience there's a whole

spiritual dimension I mean Midsummer's

Night's Dream is a good example of that

where he he's got all these dimensions

alongside this dimension and the kind of

sleepiness I'm that play huh and that's

another play that huge I mean arguably

when I was thinking about converting to

Islam I actually went and saw that play

and and in some ways that was the play

that convinced me to convert Islamic

history yeah because because I you know

I'd been in a head-on collision and and

I really felt like I had you know it was

a kind of wake up you know I was only 17

and and I really according to Highway

Patrol I should not have survived the

crash but I did and and it was very

strange experience like that I had after

that you know for several days I you

know I was like like am I here is this

meal and both spectral yeah a very very

strange experience and when it went when

I I really started studying religion

seriously at that point and I did that

for about a year and I went through I

mean my mother had always told me that

she raised us that

religion was largely an arbitrary thing

that most people just have the religion

they were brainwashed into and they get

entrenched in it and this is the truth

because I was born in in Sri Lanka and

therefore I'm a Buddhist or I'm a Hindu

or it's a mere convention yeah it's it's

there's there's it's a lot less solid

ground than a lot of people would like

to think so I decided just to look at

the different religions and what they

had to say what was it about the play it

summer nights it was actually the and

when pop comes out and kind of says you

know if we shadows have offended think

but this and all is mended yeah that you

just slumbered here there's just a dream

and it was I kind of felt like that car

crash was like it's time to wake up and

I three and I realize I could go back to

sleep and easily and and it was do I set

out to wake up and make a conscious go

of it with my life

to use my life as a a spiritual path of

awakening to actually awaken to our true

self whatever that is and and that's

that's that's what I I felt like I felt

I didn't have an option that I that I

that I couldn't just go back to sleep I

so by the way what's fascinating and it

was it was it was the it was a it was in

Santa Barbara and it was it was actually

the Royal Shakespearean they would say

our silver duck sure it was a production

from England and they were really great

yeah the interesting thing about that

about that play is that bottom is though

is the one character who can actually

pass from one order to another and he

actually he actually goes from the human

to the spirit world

you know then back again and has some

form of a relationship with a quasi a

quasi deity yeah and I'm fascinated by

that because he is the player well he's

the one who wants to play play all the


says I can play no indeed indeed and so

he's he's the most theatrical yeah and

yet it might not be an accidental

relationship between his theatricality

and his and his spiritual distinctness


that he actually can pass back and forth

and when he does pass back when he's D

metamorphosize right from ass to man

again he actually comes back revising

st. Paul he comes back with with indeed

a vision and although he's not allowed

to share that that vision by Theseus

once they do the play within a play in

act 5

he's also the one who can boss Decius

around at certain moments he actually

speaks back to her and I've more and

more begun to think that he's the

unacknowledged King if you will of of

that of that play and although at first

it startled me to hear you say that

that Midsummer Night's Dream played an

important role and not in your

conversion I actually think that that

play is seriously exploring exactly what

it is that makes it possible for us to

experience this order as not the only

order I totally agree and and to to pass

if you will back back and forth well

also you know my dad I I don't know

anybody that would even come close to

his knowledge of Shakespeare he was

convinced that bottom was Shakespeare

right that he that was his that it you

know I shall call it bottoms dream for

it hath no bottom that that that

Shakespeare was able to dream impossible

dreams and continue to dream throughout

his life and and that he the the

imagination no he certainly he certainly

identifies with in the play the play

adores him I've never seen a production

even bad productions during which the


bring down the house and bottom and

bottom in particular yeah but to take

him seriously as a seer or maybe even

some kind of prophet makes us realize

that the stakes of poetry may be much

higher than we realized that these mere

fictions are actually a form of

spiritual training

well the to catch on to catch the

impermanence the theatrical quality

actually of actual life well the the the

errors believe that the poet was yeah

was possessed by a genie you know that

there's actually a great they have a

group of Arab poets they're called the

outlaw poets outlaw boys and and they

really are they're they're they're

amazing care one was called Texeira

which means he had evil under his arm

you know the genies he's carrying them

around but the the outlaw poets were

they were like the the Dalits you know

they they were man Moody and they were

people that were expelled or had

rejected the tribal alliances and they

became a tribe for people without tribes

mmm and and some of their poets are

really really powerful but they they

definitely saw a relationship between

you know the spiritual realm and poetry

that a true poet was was somebody who

was inspired that there was something

and and undeniably the importance of

poetry is accentuated by the fact that

there is a entire chapter in the padang

called the poets and and and it's

recognized that

all of the chapter headings of the of

the Quran are momentous things it's only

momentous things get a chapter like the

Jews are there's a chapter called Benny

- Satya

because there are momentous people mmm

there's a chapter called the the the the

spider right at the ant and even Arabs

asked like why as adapters named after

these little creatures and it's like

because these are very very profound

little creatures that have great import

and and it's calling attention to those

things and and the the the verse about

the poets in the Quran because they

accused the Prophet Muhammad of being a

poet and one of the things that Emir out

the pod that gazetted he one of the

great scholars and a poet himself and

and he fought the French in Algeria and

was actually honored in this country

there's a city in Iowa named after him

out of cater Iowa because he saved

Christians that were being persecuted in

Syria but he he wrote a small book

called timbale - which in it he argues

that the reason prophets are accused of

being poets is because of the similarity

between prophecy and poetry the poet the

Arabs have a beautiful expression for

what a great poet does they call it a

sad and lieutenant which means the easy

impossible because it looks like I can

do that but then when you try to do it

you fall short and and there's something

about great poets and I think well

unfortunately for us lyric poetry our

poetry has been reduced to lyric poetry

and and most because of free verse and

the loss of prosody and and or you know

something like Mary Oliver is clearly

capable of writing in verse if she

wanted to and she certainly knows the

art but chooses to to write in in this

free verse and I find pre verse

extremely interesting it's undeniably

interesting but I think it's a third

category I think prose poetry and

and to call it versed for me as problem

at the Arabs had a third category which

is very similar to free verse which they

caught they had novum and nothi and said

yeah so they had prose poetry and then

they had a third category which is more

like rap today it's it's kind of has

internal rhymes a lot of assonance a lot

of alliteration but it's not metered and

it's not it's not rhymed in any

formalized I have a colleague who does

some very interesting work on Whitman a

poem i i i love and she she argues and I

think it's quite astute that we can

think of poetry as as as metre or we can

think of poetry as line so her argument

is that free-verse avails itself of an

any number of formal properties of

poetry note that what's significant is

the line is the line itself and Whitman

I think is really quite remarkable for

achieving his measure in in line as

opposed to meter

yeah and and that it has it has a rhythm

and in that sense it's like it's like

prose that has a rhythm but because of

the lineage the third category that

you're well I I mean I would argue that

see Whitman who really starts the ball

rolling Whitman for his is free verse

it's clearly versified but it's free

whereas a lot of what is called free

verse today that you can't if you look

at you know captain oh captain that's

clearly got strong meter in it it's just

not fixed to any you can't say oh this

is pentameter or tetrameter or dim it or

what what you can't fix it it's but it's

clearly metered he's got rhyme going

he's got it's and that's why I think

what happens later when when you have

people like Ezra Pound

because pound pound is like Picasso

Picasso could do the realist if he

wanted you know he was a trained painter

but he chose to do the abstract and and

it made sense because photography had

really replaced realist art but but he

could do that and and and pound could

could write in in meter what a lot of

people today are doing they don't know

how to write in in meter in traditional

forms and so they're just doing it's

like modern dancing where you just get

out and do whatever you want

whereas all traditional dancing you have

to learn how to dance the waltz is a

very specific set or the cha-cha or even

you know ballroom dancing all those

forms have and this is what I think this

would this is the demarcation of the the

modern and the pre-modern world is that

it it's there's a type of do what thou

wilt it's the abbey of Thelema you know

the the the rejection of law and order

and I'm going to be free and and

nobody's going to put constraints on me

and I think the problem with that and

this is why it's very interesting that

the great disciplines of our

civilization are called the liberal arts

they're the arts that free you because

if you if I get on a piano and just

start pounding away that's not music

I mean maybe George auntie all thought

it was but it's not music

you know but if I if I discipline myself

to master this thing then I'm free okay

to do whatever I want and that's where I

would personally I really feel that to

to to encourage people to do these

things without learning the rules then

you're free to break the rules it's like

if I know grammar and I choose like

Dickens to have a sentence with one word

in it

you know I don't the English teacher can

say that's not a sentence because

there's no subject and there's no

predicate but Dickens knows what a

sentence is

right and if he chooses to make a

sentence out of one word he has every

right to do that he can break the rules

because he knows the rules and I think

that's where I really I think free-verse

has has destroyed poetry personally yeah

I don't agree startled me when you came

back to the to to that to that to that

point because I don't think that it's

fully free I think again I think the the

line is still a discipline and what its

freed from is I think if they know what

they're doing X yeah no that's that's

right but most don't but I think that's

always always the case in the sense that

only those who have mastered an art can

transcend it and in that sense I am

traditionalist educationally without a

doubt but when you look and I'm

identifying Whitman in particular

because he ends up being proof of

something you said earlier when you were

talking about the influence of the

English Bible especially the King James

Version on on English and American

literary culture which is really hard to

overestimate I mean he was a great

reader of the Bible including the Psalms

and it's quite clear that he picks up a

lot of his phrasing and Clausing from

the English Psalms in in the King James

Version of the Bible and so in many ways

I think Whitman is actually a

traditionalist that he not only studied

the forms but he studied he studied the

great the great books if you if you will

but but that's always the case it seems

to me that the untrained tend to make

for less compelling revolutionaries than

the trained

they're the ones who are actually free

enough not only to choose when to obey

rules or not but to invent new rules my

father wrote a book on prosody and

really one of his life yeah one of his

lines in there was that he felt Robert

Frost Gordon ace when he said that

free-verse was like playing tennis

without a net I'm just saying there was

still lies I know I really that's my

point about Whitman I do and if you take

a poem like Kensington Gardens by Ezra

Pound I mean that's as good as poetry

gets as far as I'm concerned it's it's a

it's a poem of free verse it's an

incredibly powerful poem but again pound

knew what he was doing

yeah and and my argument is that people

are it's a default setting when when you

don't know how to do something and you

go to the default setting of just doing

whatever you can and and that's where I

think you lose artifice is very

important art and art is from ours you

know power we the word for army is a

cognate of art art is power and and and

and power comes about from discipline

it's it's it's it's a crewed by by

discipline exact a civilization that's

undisciplined will never become a

powerful civilization and and and a

writer who's undisciplined will never

become a powerful writer and that's why

I think great poetry is always there

there's definitely the discipline is

there you can feel it and somebody like

if you if you take somebody like Cormac

McCarthy is it is a good example of that


just from one point if you can drive you

crazy with his punctuation but he knows

exactly what he's doing and he has a

purpose behind that I'd like to ask him

if I ever met him

what about particular moments yeah like

what what he's trying to convey in that

usage but I really feel like we our

civilization has lost so much by the

abandonment of rules and one of the

interesting things and Nietzsche brings

out this this idea of the Apollonian and

Dionysian these two impulses we've

become such a Dionysian culture that

we've lost the importance of the

Apollonian that that there's a balance

between the two and wonderfully

portrayed in Sense and Sensibility

with these two Elinor and Marianne and

Austin does an incredible job at showing

us these two ways of being in the world

and and and how they're both in essence

flawed that you know the end where

there's a recognition of the other's

Worth and the beauty of the other that

need one of them they need one another

and and and I think we have an

interesting tradition in Islam in in

Sufism Tasso wolf which is that the

Sufis should be outwardly sober but

inwardly drunk or a static and and I

think that is is that incredible balance

of the Apollonian decorum the idea that

decorum is important I mean one of the

things that troubles me about modern

culture is the complete loss of decorum

mmm the importance of and Richard Weaver

I'm sure you're familiar with that the

ideas have consequences I think he was

really getting at the heart of the

crises that were suffering from in the

loss of a sense of hierarchy that all of

life has hierarchy and and to reduce and

level and I think that's one of the

things about free-verse to me it levels

it makes everybody a poet because

everybody can do it


and then you lose something in in in the

in in the discipline that that elevates

one over the other not in terms of a

kind of inherent superiority but in an

acquired superiority the the Confucian

idea of the superior man was a man who

had cultivated his character and his

being and and and that's I think we've

really lost that in our culture and and

and and i think i think that that loss

of meaningful life alive in a discipline

that actually accomplishments are are

something that are relished because they

were so hard-earned when everything

becomes easy when all information I mean

I can just look up the meaning of any

poem on the Internet I can find out what

meter it's in and what verse it's in and

I admitting Lee have done that before

well exactly but that something is

lauded when every well I share your

father's admiration for for Shakespeare

and the way that I would approach what

you're talking about which i think is

right and the loss of a sense of decorum

is a shame

unfortunately we think of decorum as

mere manners we don't think of it as an

ordering an ordering principle of some

of some kind but it's interesting that

one of the reasons that decorum got a

legitimately bad name is that it too

often was used to to support social

hierarchies but what's missed I think in

in decorum especially with respect to

how to train poets how to teach poets

how to write poetry how to teach people

how to read it is that the submission to

a superior artist is how unless her

artist becomes a greater artist and in

fact in in Shakespeare's own example

it's very easy to see that early in his

career he was heavily influenced by

Christopher Marlowe

and he took Marlo as an object of

imitation it's quite clear Marlowe in

great part because he died he died young

tends to have a verse less mature than

the most mature of Shakespearean verse

but I had had he lived we don't know

where he would have ended up that's

right and Shakespeare's own imitation of

Marlowe made it possible for him but to

begin to do things that Marlowe did

quite less quite less frequently so for

example a Shakespearean meter tends to

be much more regular in the early part

of his career and then he starts to

experiment with more and more

interesting metrical substitutions for

example the line changes so that

frequently he has end-stopped lines at

the beginning and relies much more

heavily on rhyme itself we think of him

always writing bankers when in fact

there's a great deal right

in the earlier frequently in the earlier

in the earlier work Romeo and Juliet for

example often has very interesting end

rhymes early early in the play and so

then you get this experiment with

enjambment that actually comes to define

the Shakespearean line which is really

quite distinct and so what I think we've

lost in in in the very loss of decorum

that Europe that you're talking about is

not the loss of submitting to

illegitimate social authority because

let it let it go but the submission to

legitimate artistic Authority in which

your training requires you to recognize

someone's artistic talent is so superior

to your own that you need to pay

attention to learn how to how to do that

and again intuitively we all we all know

this Aristotle says in the poetics that

the human being is the most mimetic of

animals right and he says something very

interesting that I've actually meditated

on my neurons we begin to actually

mirror the person we're sitting with

entrainment the hearts begin to beat in

in sync with the people we're standing


no exactly living together their their

their periods synchronized that's right

so that when young when young people are

actually trying to learn something of

course they imitate their heroes they

play their guitar like their favorite

hero does they hold the bat that way you

could always see a young person when

they're when they're imitates Dylan was

imitating James Dean Charlie Chaplin

that's exactly right

right but that is it so he became who he


yeah it wasn't just that he became that

but he became it by in a sense mastering

his master I once saw a documentary on


one of my favorite there is this Hank

Williams and Hank Williams could imitate

these two singers and he said he

realized that he had to find his own

voice he said so I got right in between

their documentary they showed the two

singers and they blended their voice and

it was Hank Williams it's just amazing

remarkable so again mimesis like he was

a twin B goes in great detail about the

mimetic importance of mimesis in a

civilization that's that that I think is

the paradox of originality and of

finding ones there's not words you know


no that's right until one masters

another artist one is imitating and then

feels compelled to to innovate and at

that point I think newness is born the

truth of the matter is before

Shakespeare a Shakespearean line of

extraordinary metrical volatility and

varied pacing it jams right oh it's new

yeah it's new the language in languages

he invented words he constantly

inventing it was it was a new it was a

new language and then we think about

somebody like like Milton who's paying a

great deal of attention than to - to

Shakespeare much less so tomarlo

and he himself realizes that that

metrically volatile in jammed line is

something that he himself can do

in Paradise in Paradise Lost in his epic

poem but he there finds that the

Shakespearean syntax is not complicated

enough for the for the collections and

the actions that he wants to represent

and his own Latinate his own Latinate

training at university drives him to

then create a miltonic style that's

distinctly distinctly his own but I

agree the the liberal arts tradition is

a tradition that's ultimately liberated

but próxima discipline that's right

approximately it requires discipline and

and and submission and the submission

the submission to a discipline I think

is something that's a great gift to

young people whether it's the discipline

that music that's my pathetic sand

poetry because that kind of mastery

empowers them much more much more fully

than shall I put it less discipline for

sure forms of expression you know Frost

said life is a series of disciplines and

the first one is the acquisition of

language of words and even the nuances

of words and the means words and poets

great poets they know their words so

well and and and they and they and they

reveal that and you know Shakespeare

sister Mary and Joseph

I think compellingly shows the


of Shakespeare to artifice to to

mastering the the books of rhetoric of

his time and and Marshall McLuhan in his

book on the Trivium the listened

Elizabethan age which created the

greatest English literature that we have

was an age of rhetoric that's what they

were doing and and that's why I really

feel you know just to close this out I

think what you did with the office of

assertion because I'd been looking for a

book for freshmen because

there's a couple of things about our

college students today they don't know

English grammar because they didn't go

to grammar school which to me is a crime

against a young person and and two they

they really struggle with writing partly

because they don't know grammar but more

importantly because they don't know

topics of invention they don't know how

ideas are generated and the the

discipline of rhetoric and what you did

with that very short but incredibly rich

little book was to really give a student

in a very short and concise way the

essence of writing a good essay and I

think the essay in the end about

Telemachus and and from from the Odyssey

is proof in the pudding so I appreciate

that agree - yeah yeah no I mean that's

how we ended up connecting and and

you've now written for the journal and

hopefully it'll you know it'll continue

the dialogue so I want to really thank

you just for coming out or hear it at

the upper campus at Zaytuna College and

and I also for inviting me out to the

University of Dallas I really enjoyed it

your hospitality was wonderful and

meeting all those people and hopefully

we'll do that again here something

similar to that so we hope so and I

wanted to thank you and the community

had Zaytuna or for having me today it

was a delight yeah great all right





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