Algo Poetry-Behind the Lines

I feel the need, the need for Stead!

A book I would recommend for any poet.

I have just finished the above book, published in 1967, and wanted to recommend it to any writer of poetry. It is written by C.K. Stead and covers the fragmentation of the Romantic movement at the end of the 19th century, the Imagist movement, and focuses heavily on Yeats and Eliot. More important, I think he has constructed a theory on what makes great poetry great.

I discovered this eye opening insight in the brilliant book and charity stores of Botanic Avenue in Belfast, and parted with two British pounds for it. In reading up on Stead, he is a poet and highly decorated author from New Zealand (ONZ,CBE) who is still with us- and the book highlighted above was… his first book!!!!.

Stead contends that great poetry exists in a triangle of -Poet, Audience and the area of Experience, ( subject that they are writing about). He proposes that great poetry is that which is like an equilateral triangle in terms of distance achieved between all three points. (See my crude illustration of such)

My Stead Try-angle

This, to me, was a revelation and his pinpointing of Yeat’s “Easter 1916” as an example of this perfectly proportioned triangle was superb.. He also explains why poets in ages may have been considered “ahead of their time” and not achieved success during their own lifetime-in that the poet had the right distance from their area of experience , but were too far away from their audience at that time.

The author’s analysis could also be considered ahead of it’s time- his insights into inspiration, negative capability, “surface” poetry and the use of a poetic mask to go even further into the self and subconscious is ridiculously revelatory.

There is also a fantastic chapter on Eliot, and his analysis of the Four Quartets is worth a book in it’s own right.

I see it is still available on Amazon, so pick up a copy if you can-wonderful.

My next purchase, based on this unexpected educational experience, will be another book by Stead- “My Name was Judas”, (2006)-with the author as ghostwriter to the apostle, who recounts his side of the story- forty years later. Sounds fun!



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