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Re: Who is the greatest writer?
Posted by: MesMorial (IP Logged)
Date: 28 March, 2012 04:17AM
I am not familiar with Vance, Merrit, or Fanu (not really Hodgson).

In regards to poets, I think Byron's the best. Keats is good though. I prefer to read George Sterling and CAS (or their style), though I wouldn't consider them to be as skilled

As for the writers in that list, here is my order of preference:


Clark Aston Smith
Lord Dunsany
H.P Lovecraft
E.A Poe
Algernon Blackwood
Arthur Machen
M.R. James

Shakespeare was probably skilled, but I find him (for the greater part) uninteresting.


I find Clark Ashton Smith most colourful, engaging and enchanting, whilst Dunsany is lyrical. Lovecraft's characters are stilted and uninteresting (except for Pickman), so he might be next to or below Poe. I have to read more of Machen (started "The Hill of Dreams").

[www.youtube.com]



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 28 Mar 12 | 04:20AM by MesMorial.

Re: Who is the greatest writer?
Posted by: Absquatch (IP Logged)
Date: 28 March, 2012 07:46AM
The real distinction, to me, is not between poetry and prose, but between poetry and non-poetry. Not all poetry need be written in verse. This notion goes back at least to the Bible, and is echoed in Shelley's Defence of Poetry, a text still very much worth reading today, for those of you who don't know it. Not all verse is poetry, and not all that claims to be poetry is poetry, at all. To me, a paragraph of Sir Thomas Browne is more poetic than the collected works of Eliot, Pound, and Williams.

Re: Who is the greatest writer?
Posted by: calonlan (IP Logged)
Date: 28 March, 2012 09:41AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> From some prominent posters on this forum I have
> gotten the impression that you regard poetry a
> higher, or more important literary art-form than
> prose. Seeing prose is second grade, something to
> read when feeling less intellectually ambitious,
> as a more relaxed entertainment to pass a little
> extra time away, perhaps even bordering on "guilty
> pleasure". Prose being inferior because it uses so
> many words, and therefore is less pure. Is it so,
> that you look upon prose as lower than poetry?
>
> I have to admit that I don't get all that much
> satisfaction out of reading poetry. (I would guess
> that writing it, gives more pleasure for the
> poet.) Sure, good poetry presents a distilled
> thought, captures a situation at a certain time, a
> mood, an atmosphere, a wisdom of analogy. And I
> can see that as an art-form, it is a challenge
> trying find the exact right words to express a
> certain vision as cleanly as possible. But at the
> same time poetry needs to find words that will fit
> with the rythm, and rhyme, and to me that seems
> obviously like an artificial and unnatural
> impediment hindering the way of purest meaning.
> Further, its form and structure draws too much
> attention to itself.
>
> Also, to use a comparison, to me poetry is like a
> painter's carefully worked out and balanced
> drawing (or it can also be like a watercolor
> sketch!), the "skeleton" construction of the
> painting. But it doesn't include all the gradually
> shifting tones of paint applied with brush, the
> "flesh" of the painting, represented by prose.
>
> Poetry presents me with an uplifting idea, a
> pleasant distilled thought, inspiration leading me
> in a certain direction. But it never draws me into
> a complete illusion of alternate reality, of
> fulfilled ecstatic vision, the way prose does.
> Prose, like painting, takes its time to build up a
> fullfilled creation, with all nuances and
> subtleties. Prose (which includes "prose poetry")
> is to me the highest literary form.
I would like to respond to a number of items here, but as regards the relationship between poetry and Prose:
I recommend reading my old friend John Ciardi's excellent "How does a poem mean" - I will freely grant that the power and majesty of epic poetry will not just fall out of the sky into one's understanding or appreciation - however, having done the work (and lots of it) to get it is rewarding in a quite different way than prose, and indeed, is, generally, an elevated form of speech - It would be rare indeed to be able to gather a crowd for an evening of "Prose Reading" -
As to CAS' assessment of Poe as a poet - his own work is far better than Poe, but Poe introduced him to the possibility of meaning through sound and rhythym - it was his short stories that piqued his interest in story writing, and he did a good deal of that first - his earliest efforts at poetry were trivial by comparison -
see "Sword of Zagan" - as to the "master" always out-weighing the disciple - hardly -
in the last analysis, each writer gives pleasure to some - time and history make the judgments I suppose -

Re: Who is the greatest writer?
Posted by: Absquatch (IP Logged)
Date: 28 March, 2012 10:05AM
Of course, masters do not always outrank their disciples, but that's not what I wrote.

As for Poe versus CAS, it's all a matter of taste. As I recall, though, CAS rhapsodizes in his George Sterling memoir about his discovery of Poe's verse at the age of thirteen or so, not his prose. While CAS's verse is more polished and consistent--not without reason, since CAS lived much longer than Poe--Poe at his most memorable far outstrips CAS as a poet. Again, de gustibus, of course.

As an aside, and before bowing out of this discussion, I can't help mentioning Julien Gracq's cynical but all-too-accurate observation: "Literature was the last of the arts to appear. It will be the first to disappear". To this, I would add that poetry was the first of the verbal arts to appear, and it has already all but disappeared. It is easy to name the usual suspects in this particular crime, but it is a shame to see such persons as Knygatin twisting the knife, as well. When individuals such as he cannot see the value of poetry in verse, and when other contributors here devalue the likes of Shakespeare and Milton, then that particular corpse must be cold, indeed. Let in lie in peace, then, and enjoy your little stories.

Re: Who is the greatest writer?
Posted by: MesMorial (IP Logged)
Date: 28 March, 2012 09:42PM
“Poetry” and “poems” are different things, and yet the same.

“Poems” are what poetry traditionally gets used for. Poetry is like clay. The poem is the pot that we make FROM the clay. Depending upon its use, it can be formed differently.

Poetry is essentially the way that we see things, although it is recognised by “empowering meaning” through external inspiration. Poetry is in our thoughts and what we see, it is in our thoughts and what we hear, etc.. Since nothing has meaning except what we give it, we can basically “change” the meaning of something (e.g. money) and thus control our priorities and our behaviour. If we know what we are, we can live life meaningfully (i.e. live a life that satisfies/fulfils our actual nature, without contaminating excess). All that is the power of poetry.

Prose bereft of poetry is practical or pointless.

Re: Who is the greatest writer?
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 29 March, 2012 02:27PM
Thank you jdworth for your most generous post. Enlightening. I treasure it.

Thank you also MesMorial for your saviour post, lucidly describing what should simply be obvious: the poetry in prose. I can go on ejoying prose undaunted now.

Thank you also calonlan and Absquatch, for book recommendation and interesting thoughts. In England it is not so uncommon with "Prose Readings" of Arthur Machen's works, for example.



Alas... I spent considerable time writing a long post in sections. With much more evolved comments, and thoughts. But when about to post it, I touched the wrong buttons and the whole text irretrievably disappeared, not having saved it soon enough. Good Grief! I have no energy to rewrite it. I only feel miserable right now. Perhaps I'll come back later, if some of the thoughts return to me. Maybe this was a sign from God that I should be using my time differently than hanging over the computor.

Re: Who is the greatest writer?
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 29 March, 2012 10:19PM
What is being referred to in several of the posts here, I believe, is at least very closely allied to what Poe called the "Poetic Sentiment", which he indeed noted (in "The Poetic Principle") could be developed in any of the arts; in poetry in the usual sense (i.e., verse), he has labeled it as "the Rhythmical Creation of Beauty"... but, yes, it is pervasive in the best prose, as well. One sees a great deal of it in CAS and in Lovecraft, who was a great lover of poetry (though not always of the highest or best poets, as can be seen from his liking for Alan Seeger or -- more excusably -- Thomas Moore, who also incidentally elicited a fair number of favorable comments from Poe); but there are many others where it is strongly evident, from de la Mare (who also wrote some fine verse), Machen, Hawthorne, a fair amount of Ligotti (especially the pieces in The Agonizing Resurrection of Victor Frankenstein), as well as numerous others. Even with writers who are not, by and large, to be thought of in that connection, there are passages or entire pieces to which this idea would apply....

Re: Who is the greatest writer?
Posted by: MesMorial (IP Logged)
Date: 30 March, 2012 05:13AM
Dear Knygatin;

You are always welcome :)

In such an unfortunate circumstance, I would most probably write a poem.

As for applying the "God" concept to it, that is an example of using one thing to inspire another thought (like poetry). If we have an idea of what is "good" (or "better"), we will compare everything to it.

Re: Who is the greatest writer?
Posted by: asmithson (IP Logged)
Date: 23 April, 2012 10:44AM
I think that majority of the lay would probably be inclined to Shakespeare but there is something with the more known writers that make me despise them. Well, it is not something totally of great hate but there is something that makes me dislike their work, or rather choose something that is not as well known but you surely know would have that great and lasting punch.

Re: Who is the greatest writer?
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 23 April, 2012 01:21PM
asmithson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> there is something
> with the more known writers that make me despise
> them.

It is not something about them; it is something about you---it is called snobbery.

Re: Who is the greatest writer?
Posted by: Gill Avila (IP Logged)
Date: 23 April, 2012 09:34PM
It's probably not so much a feeling of snobbery as much as it is a sense 0f "asmithson"s own inherent worthlessness, the knowledge that seven days after he's dead people will have a difficult time proving--or caring--that he ever actually lived.

Re: Who is the greatest writer?
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 24 April, 2012 04:12PM
I would be hesitant to make either assumption; too close to armchair analyzing for my taste. There can be many reasons why a person feels this way... I've got a touch of it myself; most people I've encountered do. The causes can range from those posited above to genuinely finding the more obscure writers to one's taste, in that the way they express something more often strikes a chord than the better-known writers. It can also be a reluctance to "go with the herd", a distrust of popular opinion, even among the knowledgeable.

Whatever it is, I personally would say it is a limiting factor which prevents genuine appreciation of some of the finest talent in history, and is something I tend to challenge when I encounter it in myself, to try to see whether it is an unreasoning prejudice or whether there is a genuine basis for such a reaction, either in my own aesthetic or more general terms. But, as the old adage has it, to each his own....

Re: Who is the greatest writer?
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 24 April, 2012 04:37PM
Whereas there are current things that are popular but nevertheless garbage, something that has remained popular for centuries is typically really good.

Re: Who is the greatest writer?
Posted by: cguitar (IP Logged)
Date: 29 April, 2012 09:57PM
With the discussion between De la Mare and Poe, in as much as Poe has been appreciated and very well done with the work, the ability of De la Mare to include, even on a very subtle sense, delicate music is far beyond what Poe is probably capable of.

Though I still admire what Poe had done and I just think that the other appeals to my personal preference and probably a few others here, more.

Re: Who is the greatest writer?
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 17 March, 2014 04:13PM
Absquatch Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> but it is a shame to see such
> persons as Knygatin twisting the knife, as well.
> When individuals such as he cannot see the value
> of poetry in verse, and when other contributors
> here devalue the likes of Shakespeare and Milton,
> then that particular corpse must be cold, indeed.
> Let in lie in peace, then, and enjoy your little
> stories.


"... enjoy your little stories."

That last remark has haunted me ever since I first read it. I simply couldn't come to terms with it. Unable to integrate it with Absquatch's clear statement of 28 March, 2012 06:46AM, further up in the thread.

"... little stories."

It hurts.

Standing before my cherished books, I have been filled with doubts. Have I missed something? Am I deluded? Like someone blinded to the quality of the color tones in his surrounding, from lack of comparative contrast. Wasting my time in less than optimal worth? Is prose a diluted and inferior literary form, or for that matter, an inferior art form?

We know that CAS didn't think as highly of prose as of poetry, but he may have re-evaluated that later when he discovered the magical possibilities of prose. I think Dr. Farmer has said, that CAS wrote prose for the money. Otherwise he would have written verse exclusively. To me that sounds strange, and hard to believe.

Did someone like Poe write his prose only as a compromise? As an artistically sacrificial way of reaching out to a wider audience?

I believe I understand now what it is that has given me a sense of stumbling insecurity or bad conscience over the stories accumulated on my book shelves. I feel that too much of my time has been wasted away in reading preliminary build-ups before arriving at the quintessential essences of beauty or weirdness at the core of the stories. The very best stories are equally worthwhile from start to finish, and saturated with meaning from first page to the last. But much of my reading matter has honestly not been that way. There has been a large percentage of pages with obligatory transport drama build-up, that I have forced my way through, to get to the good parts. On the other hand, verse could never replace prose, for the integrated complex multiple parts of those quintessential essences once reached. Verse and prose have different uses.

One relief I have come to accept however, is that once a story has been read a first time, when coming back to it, I don't have to re-read all of it or the drama build-up, but can go directly to the quintessential essences and linger over them much like one does over verse.

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