Saturday, October 9, 2010

Poetics of Cooperation

When Keats wrote poetry, he told Woodhouse, "thoughts come about him in troops," from which "he culls...the best"; his poems could seem even "to come by chance or magic - to be...something given to him." The result is a poetry that does not so much pre-resolve thematic issues as represent them in ways that invite resolution, and completion, by the reader. In Susan Wolfson's apt phrase, this is a "poetics of cooperation," which predicates its art on the reciprocal activity of an imagining, desiring reader, and which ideally embodies an ethic of openness and generosity toward both reader and subject. In the Great Odes, we see the paradoxical but fruitful encounter between a form that fostered self-display and a poet who frequently deplored it: "Poetry," Keats wrote to Reynolds early in 1818, "should be great & unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one's soul, and does not startle it or amaze it with itself but with its subject." - Paul Sheats

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