Note: Tumblr erased the original question as spam and kept locking me out! Arg!!
Musings of a Bard asks:
In response to your thoughts on emotivists, what do you think of Neo-romanticism?
Interesting question! I haven’t come across the term very much, but it is undeniable that Romanticism is still with us and is arguably the predominant and guiding aesthetic, even more that modernism, which is saying something. Romanticism is almost something you can’t even distance yourself from because it’s so omnipresent. But if we think of neo-romanticism more concretely as a response to modernism, we get something, maybe, like this:
The ‘new-romantic’ movement embodied a typical English compromise. It accepted the idea that the poet should use images that arose spontaneously in his mind, without trying to understand them; and should let one image suggest another image, without trying to work out the pattern of a poem logically; on the other hand he should be as the surrealists were not; selective he should reject images that seemed to him trivial and jarring.
This is an immensely important idea in poetry since WWII. It’s both pro- and anti-surrealist, building on surrealism as a new muse but rejecting its raw structure, elevating instead the poet as a writer in the way that term is typically thought of today: an individual who puts his genius and originality into the work, relying on non-rational parts of consciousness. The poet controls the poem consciously, but not rationally. This is the great idea of Romanticism—imagination and genius. The idea that there is something we all have—both personal and universal—that transcends our social identity and from which we draw for artistic creativity. Symbolists and Deep Image poets (who are in the Uut “canon”) fall right in line with this.
But there are two dangers here, especially if you are asking about neo-romanticism as a viable model for writing poetry today. First, Romantic genius is often flattened into emotionalism. I don’t know why, but I suppose there’s just not a lot of other options in the Western tradition: rational mind, emotions, animal instinct. Maybe a soul if your Platonic. So we tend to equate romanticism with emotions, which becomes superficial. Second, there is a potentially dangerous ideological blindspot in this model, because it assumes that the individual or “self” is self-determined and has control over its materials and the writing process. But not only is a large majority of our experience, identity and consciousness determined for us by the cultural environment we are thrown into, but even the images and materials we use to create art already have specific, limited meanings that both enable and impede expression. I think it’s more accurate to see the writing process like the assembling of collage. We select and arrange. We steal and mash. Romanticism’s un-problematic view of the self underscore individualism at the expense of our communal identity.
Still, I’m a softy for (the good kind of) Romanticism.
What is your exposure to neo-romanticism and do you think of your writing in that way?