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Sarah Starrenburg

Modern Poets

Posted on Nov 13, 2007 in Art, Life | 0 comments

“In a sort of jealousy, I suppose, for our own age, silly and absurd though these comparisons are, I went on to wonder if honestly one could name two living poets now as great as Tennyson and Christina Rossetti were then.

“Obviously it is impossible, I thought, looking into those foaming waters, to compare them. The reason why the poetry excites one to such abandonment, such rapture, is that it celebrates some feeling that one used to have (at luncheon parties before the war perhaps), so that one responds easily, familiarly, without troubling to check the feeling, or to compare it with any that one has now.

“But the living poets express a feeling that is actually being made and torn out of us at the moment. One does not recognise it in the first place; often for some reason one fears it; one watches it with keeness and compares it jealously and suspiciousy with the old feeling that one knew.

“Hence the difficulty of modern poetry; and it is because of this difficulty that one cannot remember more than two consecutive lines of any good modern poet.”

– Virginia Woolf, ‘A Room of One’s Own’

It is the same today as ever it was in Virginia’s day – the new art, the new ways…it is easier to stay comfortable, to say this we like, this rings true for us, this works, than to recognise that we move ever forward and most things are simply a celebration of what we once were rather than a reflection of what we are or could become. It is easier to celebrate and enshrine than to recognise and champion.

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