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Creative mind the Lowell Institute cooperative broadcasting Council presents Alan take the poet as Creator as they number six and I from the Association of educational broadcasters series The creative mind produced by WGBH FM in Boston under a grant from the Educational Television Radio Center. These conversations explore the creative process as it pertains to the American artist and scientist in the 20th century. Here is our host and commentator for the creative mind. Lyman Bryson I suppose it isn't unreasonable to expect that poets and critics. Mr. Allen Tate is both a port and critic should be able to talk about their work better than most creative artists or thinkers. After all they deal in words words or their other business. But this doesn't mean as Mr. Tate
makes it perfectly clear that a poet is a writer who has a good idea something that happens to him and he takes this raw material and sort of fits it into the rhythms and the rhymes that make a poem. Now if there is such a thing as the raw material of a poem it's a chunk of human experience. It's like the raw material of any other form of art. It's elusive it's charged with emotion it's very vague in its outlines what the poet does and the critic and Mr. Tate here is watching the poet in himself at work what the poet does is to make a poem out of this experience but it isn't really all there until it is a poem. The poem says something which couldn't be said except in that particular form. Now what generates a poem in the mind of a poet. Maybe most anything it may be a line which has come into his fancy somehow and whose echo sort of fascinates him. It may be a vision that he has of something it
may be an actual sensory experience. Whatever it is it works like a piece of sand in an oyster. And finally you get the pearl which is the. They poetic or the artistic form. He's drawing not so much to make something as to discover something when he discovers that he knows that it's right. You know this argument which is a little bit more subtle perhaps than makes it too subtle to be easily comprehended unless we stop to think about it. An experiment in our own. Psychology is where that little bit leads to another topic of special interest to Mr. Tate. He's a teacher and a critic as well as a poet. Now you don't see any difficulty in being a critic and a poet at the same time. After all most of the great poets of the world have been good critics when they want to turn to prose. One can think of a great many of them who took the trouble to be critics Mr. Tait's also a teacher and a poet. Now
being a teacher and a poet presents quite a different kind of problem but we have in our civilization at the present time a great many examples of men who are trying to be teachers as well as musicians teachers as well as painters. And the reason for this is that the agency of patronage in our civilization seems to be more and more as time goes on the university. The university provides a home for the poet or the painter. Of course it's always been a favorite home of the critic. The university provides a place where he can work. It provides him with a livelihood. Now the question is does it also give him his special contact with life or by being inside a university. Is he cut off from the kind of contact with life that would give his poetry the freshness and vitality. Mr. Tate believes that there is in our country at the present time an enormous amount of amateur verse writing just as there is an enormous amount of painting I suppose
no country in the world ever had more active amateurs in all the arts right now than the people of the United States have. We paint on Sundays and other days we write music we play music and as he says we write verse and yet this is the paradox rather troublesome one at the present time there doesn't seem to be in the United States any very great appreciation of poetry in its highest reaches. We all want to write poetry but Mr. Tate suspects that we don't want to listen to it with any great devotion. Now if he's right in thinking this. He also gives us a hint as to the answer and that is that poets have visions of the world not as it is but as it ought to be or as it might be. And when we get a vision of the world as it ought to be we're a little bit disturbed because the people in that vision don't seem to be like us and we think perhaps the poet isn't painting our
portraits quite as faithfully as he might. He raises a very old question. I doubt very much of the contemporaries of Walt Whitman recognize themselves easily in the robust virility that he attributed to Americans just as today perhaps we don't recognize rather sad selves in the poetry of TS Eliot and W.H. Auden or men of that kind or even of Mr. Tate himself. That leaves us with the very ancient question which is our real self what we think we are or what the artist sees in us. Mr. cavernous began the conversation of Mr. Tate with a question about the relation between the poet and his life. His actual experience. I think your question would be answered in many different ways in many different ways there are points there are certain parts of one's experience that seem not to be available
in play dream bad little of my direct experience. You think any of the points I've written some how after many as the education and experience are something I've seen or felt or some mud look confusion that I suffered at one time in my life all those things seemed somehow to get involved in a kind of symbolic movement of the mind images and then appoint gets written but the original experience seems to be lost or so disguised that I can sketch or recognize it then projected knowledge or knowledge drawing from the imagination is just as valid as actual knowledge or experience. Yes but I think we would have to say they had the ability to somewhat depends upon the coherence. A mad man a man in a. Psychiatric ward would have the same kind of validity in his experience it's real
but it is not necessary to pull a trigger. Well isn't that one of the major problems of the point in translating this experience whether it's actual or springing from the imagination in deployed terms I think it is and I should think that couldn't be calculated by the coy did the resulting languages are part of an expression of his character and intelligence his sensibility and these obscure things that come out of the recesses of the psyche somehow. But if it's a conscious control always it seems to me to add up and give your rather bad results. How does one determine the metrical structure of a point in the metre and rhythm and so forth. Does the subject matter. Dictate is this a model. If someone does partly I should think. But if it governs it entirely then the media would order and rhythm would be absolutely chaotic. Isn't it true that
in most agencies that there are certain metrical conventions that seem to dominate and points either accept them wholly or partly I would tend to reject them. But it seems to me there's always a rather subtle in the action between the prevailing rhythms of a port to gauge and the demands of the subject as a constant pushing of both ways the media is trying to subdue the intractable subject matter an intractable subject matter is trying to break down the media. I think the great poetry like some of Shakespeare's reflects that that conflict relates Shakespearean blank verse for example. But again we have so many variables that it's almost impossible to deal with them coherently. Does this. Rhythmic metrical push ever occur first prior to the real idea or image rather good
rhythm gets into your head and certain sounds associated with that rhythm. We're kind of Jabberwocky occasioning remember many years ago when Paul Crane was writing on one of his most beautiful poems called passage out of Fourth of July party and he knew everybody was getting very high and hard began to repeat say over and over again where the see the least divided disc I rather see belief divide the second time and I'm sure you had no idea how that phrase was going but about two months later he showed me the manuscript of the entire poem and that one phrase I want to get is that everything John is just I'm sure he had no idea what the subject of what was going to be in the parliament just one thing led to another. Is it possible that a point feels at home at ease within a certain metric patterns and not in others. I think it begins to feel too much at ease in any other way but a lot of the way out I
suppose that when writing a poem or painting a picture or composing a quartet that the so-called creative man is trying to discover something. He doesn't know what the Quartet is going to be about. Painter doesn't quite know what the picture he paints the picture I want to find out what the fix is going to be here and I got to the point I was going to say the same thing true in the construction of a Fiat. Speaking of the subject area. A Point Where to the point find symbolism the symbolism that he employs does he have a personal language of symbolism. I don't think so but where you get it is a difficult matter to decide some of it is consciously acquired and that's what we call lame. I think generally speaking the culture in which the played live as he's exploring his own mind for certain symbols or images which will
convey to him self even the meaning of the particular situation in history in which he finds himself. But where these symbols come from nobody quite know seems to be the most profound probably most violent thing ever said about quite it was not said directly about pointers about something else that is in the grave digger scene and Hamlet. When the grave to go talk to your ex go to this little shop without being a very sensitive man he hit pretty hard with a grave digger can play with the skill of these friends who recently did in the show says Custom My lord has made in him a property of easiness. And when the point is so completely saturated and completely involved in the symbolism that he doesn't consciously It seems to me that the symbolism is much more powerful. Well that brings me then directly to the next aspect of this question
and that is how can a point involve symbols that at once have meaning for his readers and at the same time are original in the Jordan concept. Seems to me that the amount of luck some of the points to the points of the 30s in the 1940s were trying to evolve consciously certain symbols for that time. While some of it was pretty good no doubt and but I can't can't believe that this country's search for symbols is ever going to work. Seems to me the point has got to be possessed by his symbols he doesn't possess them. They take they take hold of him. Does the point work as directly and obviously with rhythmic structure as say a musician. Well I think probably he does but again like a musician he's not only working with rhythm that was well taken musician face to musician only working with rhythm he's working with sound also and pitch and the relation of certain note. And so the point is not working with pure rhythm.
It's always involved in the sudden sound and those sounds become further involved with meanings. It seems to me at that point the art of play 3 moves away from the pure arts of sound like music or the pure visual arts like painting and sculpture. We can't completely take all the meaning out of language as they are some of the surrealist poets attempted to do. It seems to me that if a straight plate when he produces a line or a passage he's not conscious of any one of these elements there are and they all move together is what it is called auditory imagination. It's not to be separated from the meaning of the words. It's the only analogy I can think of is that for example if you have a goodbye Lynas to play the organ condemns us to the Beethoven concerto. It's certainly true that at one time the violinist must have to play each note separately but when he plays it
in public he's not aware of each note separate day. If you were you couldn't play it. The whole thing is muscular memory intellectual memory the whole thing is involved as a complex and you can't separate the different elements. All of these elements have to be brought into play of course. Getting away a little bit from the musical aspect in as a parallel with poetry. How about the parallels between poetry and painting. Are there any such does for example a point imply texture the way a painter does. I'm sure he does what we have that would text pretty firmly established in what is called the New Criticism. John Crowe Ransom many years ago developed a theory of the relation of the logical content of the poem to the sensibility and he used the two time structure and texture of the text is the unpredictable or contingent element the thing that you couldn't predict if you have a
logical paraphrase of the point. And that would be roughly similar to what you have in mind when you speak of the text of painting. But the direct connection between painting and pointer seems to me a difficult thing to understand. Seems to me generally speaking that painting but what everybody knows is a spatial and it must push as far as possible told the temporal to give the sequence of actions and somehow quite obviously out of temporal sequence. But in order to give the reader the temporal sequences action whatever it is is located somewhere it must create the illusion of space so the two are to moving toward each other and meet somewhere in the middle. There's the fact that we're living in what might describe as a rather strongly critical age. Does this act as a deterrent to the point or is it perhaps a spur to how to decide that
I think could actually turn it in some respects. In the American universities today you find young men and women 20 to 25 years old who are extremely knowing they read all the criticism they know all the answers and there's so much to well you know what has been accomplished by the two proceeding generations that thing they tend to be intimidated by it. And so clearly what's going on that they can't right themselves as something that ought to do right. They tend to. When I say to be intimidated and then I don't strike out on their own very much it's a sudden kind of ignorance of one's own time. It's probably an advantage in a way to undermine any artist. I don't suggest that the artist ought to be ignorant but if he's too much to have a contemporary
It creates a kind of nervousness they'll get jittery about it. Well how about a case that might very well be identified with your own play who is also a critic. Does your activity as a critic have any direct effect on your activity as a poet. It's very hard for me to know that I've tried to think about it it would be inevitable what one would think about it but I don't think there's much connection. I do think most of my essays are program magic that I'm trying and devious and indirect ways to rationalize or to justify what I've written. I have to be perfectly candid about it. And I would go further and say that I don't think I'm very different from other people most literary critics programmatic critics. The best example of that in our century is to establish a certain atmosphere which is on point you could be read. It seems to me that Coleridge did exactly the same thing not necessarily for himself but it was like
yeah he created a critical atmosphere in which the romantic poetry could be appreciated and criticism always got to do that. The whole AIDS then the whole era in poetry yet existed within this atmosphere I would think so. Well then in that case we could say that they thin some cases it and I helped to have the critical faculties sharpened. I would think so he has if I may refer to my own situation again. But you'd think a name or other at last count I've written so many essays think all but two or three of them were written under the request of somebody. And my span of attention and essays about 6000 was Jack don't think I could ever write a complete book and somebody gave me the subject and said Well if you can't see what you can do with it. And I think a great many people like that their critics by accident does then and the writing of critical material
these critical essays exist on a creative level equal to budding. I don't know about that I'm just going to have no real opinion. It's certainly different from plagiarism. I would think that that of a writer doesn't keep the rubbish separate from the critical writing. You're going to get into trouble because he's going to write poetic prose Otherwise it seems to me that critical critical style of prose style for a critic ought to be extremely plain. And perhaps the least interesting possible language. I mean no poetic effect. We mentioned earlier the breaking of rules as a as a means of breaking ground. Isn't it perhaps possible for that a poet who is also a critic to break his own rules to even contradict
himself. Very much so. You mean to contradict what he's doing and to construct poetry that perhaps does not agree with what he has said in critical I think it often happens all the time. Yes I get it again. Me illustrates so many things in the New York Times the goal of the classical ideal in his criticism is certainly not everybody in his poetry romantic poit when the great romantic voyage. Well that leads me directly into another subject area entirely. The point and the critic both fitting into their own age that they own their own period of time and that is the relation ship between the point and the society in which he lives. It seems to me that to a certain extent the serious point is somewhat separated from his society at least the attitude of his society
toward him would indicate this. Would there possibly be less of this separation if you agree that it exists. If more people practiced the writing of poetry no matter how immaterial they were about it would be a more direct and participating attitude I don't think so. Read it because it seems to me that in the United States there must be more point per capita than they've ever been before in the world. Everybody's writing poetry poetry society ladies tribes who people ladies write poetry all the time. I don't know how it would be very interesting too if we could possibly find out how many votes right is the United States I should think there must be at least 200000. But they all tend to be don't tend to make a poetic community. Even with all of these these verse writers it appears to me that it's become almost a cliche in the publishing business that a book of birth a book
of poetry is something to take a long careful look at because it may be a dangerous venture financially. Yes I think a very good SEO for a new book of poems would be 1000. And in terms of the bestseller list that's rather modest in the rather modest The publishers lose money how they do it occasionally for prestige because they're genuinely interested in pony dream. This question of the relation of the point to society is a very difficult one. Archibald MacLeish has been as you know very much interested in it and is concerned with what he calls a public philosophy of the point but I think the trouble with that approach to the model is that the point tends to project a public philosophy into which the site itself is on the way. We got that going back to when a matter of fact it was a great democratic plate. And the great Democratic point is read only by highbrow and it's a curious fact that in this great democratic
world of Whitman there's only one human being to other human beings exist except by illusion and the only human being being in the south. So that's a very dangerous thing I should think that really is the extent to which a plate is nourished by society that was beyond his control. He either is or isn't but he cannot create that relation. I like Big Brother paradoxical in the extreme statement of w age old and he says point doesn't make anything happen but we know it does in a way that doesn't make anything happen immediately and I think the point I had better just forget about that if he's isolated from society you've got to accept the situation is the most vital function of the Python in creating a new way of seeing old things or creating new things to see both everything on an equal basis. Depends on the Boyd
and on the toy I just. It's often said that the point to make common things is that if they've never been looked at before they got to get out of that Robert Frost just want to be great. Now it seems to me that even to put in the Vader like power and to some extent less of an innovator after a little while they don't seem quite so strange that they're not ready pointing out new things or showing us new things so much as the old things and with a new sensibility we have been discussing from time to time. The younger poets the coming generation of poets. Is it possible to teach the writing of poetry. No I shouldn't think so. I know that a great many universities colleges have poets in residence who actually teach courses in the writing I happen to be one of them. So how successful is this is this fostering of poetry through a classroom. Well we have to wait a long time to see how they all turn it would
they. I think that the virtue of that kind of teaching is simply that a given point might be saved in time by having some older person talk to him about what he's doing or to encourage him of it perhaps to tell him to stop writing poetry and to go into the oil business or something of that sword. You can't teach it. It simply seems to me that since American society seems to be rather indifferent to point to American society as a whole university has become the patron and it creates the sort of relative leisure in which the young player can try himself to see what he can do. You were speaking of patronage the university functioning nowadays as a in the in the role of the patron. Is there anything nowadays comparable to the personal patronage that was enjoyed by Elizabethan restoration. Whether I should be no examples of it but shouldn't it be characteristic about
the great foundation a patron to the odds. And we're scientists too I think the trouble with that kind of patronage is that it is impersonal. Had abstracted gives the auto certain advantages a little more independent than if he was a retainer of a nobleman in Renaissance Italy. I doubt there are certain losses he is given a certain amount of money to go to Europe or to retire some way to paint a picture write appoint him. This isolation is even more complete than if he hadn't received the money because if he hadn't received the money he'd have to work for a living that would somehow relating to the society in which he's living which he finds out. Then speaking of the work of pushing a society forward making it progress by ones writing it to whom is the point really responsible is he responsible to to his society only to himself.
Creative mind
The poet as creator
Producing Organization
WGBH Educational Foundation
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program features Allen Tate speaking on poetry and creativity.
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This series, hosted by Lyman Bryson, presents radio essays about the creative process for the American artist and scientist in the 20th century.
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Guest: Tate, Allen, 1899-1979
Host: Bryson, Lyman, 1888-1959
Producer: Summerfield, Jack D.
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 58-44-6 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:18
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Chicago: “Creative mind; The poet as creator,” 1964-04-15, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 26, 2022,
MLA: “Creative mind; The poet as creator.” 1964-04-15. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 26, 2022. <>.
APA: Creative mind; The poet as creator. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from