I always enjoy reading Patrick Kurp’s blog, Anecdotal Evidence, and this post on Herbert Morris, a poet unknown to me, was no exception.
Kurp quotes Eric Ormsby, who contrasts Morris’s work with the “career-building narcissism” and “sameness of tone” he detects in many poets. The rather discomforting quotation is worth pondering:
Earnestness is a splendid virtue; while essential to social workers and scoutmasters, it is, however, of limited value to poets who usually prove to be better writers when they are shifty, unscrupulous, and shamelessly insincere--in matters, that is, unconnected with their craft. Earnestness, by contrast, deadens; it homogenizes the sentiments; it may flirt with irony but never dangerously so; it subordinates magic to agenda; it seeks to please rather than to charm; it hankers after acceptance and respectability, however much it may squawk the opposite--and was any great or good poem ever truly respectable?