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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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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