Critical Note to The Collected Poems of Harold Monro, ed. Alida Monro, with a biographical sketch by F. S. Flint
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522 ] Critical Note to The Collected Poems of Harold Monro, ed. Alida Monro, with a biographical sketch by F. S. Flint London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1933. Pp. 217; “Critical,” xiii-xvi1 If we considered the poetry of Harold Monro, as it is natural to do, from an historicalpointofview,weshouldseehimisolatedbetweenthe“Georgian” poets of one decade and the more “modern” poets of another.2† The historical point of view, especially when we are concerned with our immediate predecessors and our contemporaries, is largely impersonal; that is to say, it tends to emphasise what a man has in common with others, in subject matter , in manner of style and technique, in his social background and assumptions . It also judges men according to what is taken to be their influence, or their importance in the main current. Such an attitude is bound to be unfair to the reputation of such a poet as Monro. What he contributed is hardly to be considered either in close relation to the work of the earlier generation or to that of the later. Technically, certainly, he was not an innovator. It is a poet’s business to be original, in all that is comprehended by “technique,” only so far as is absolutely necessary for saying what he has to say; only so far as is dictated, notbytheidea–forthereisnoidea–butbythenatureofthatdarkembryo within him which gradually takes on the form and speech of a poem. Monro’s style developed and changed, of course; like that of any other writer who is of serious interest. His later manner is more like that of his younger contemporaries than like that of his elder contemporaries; but this is not due, I think, to any influence from without, but to the needs of the matter to be said.3† But with Georgian poetry he had little in common.4 Of that poetry I speak with much diffidence. What I remember of it is a small number of poems by two or three men. I supposed, long ago, that Harold Monro’s poetry belonged in this category – with the poetry of writers not unfairly representable in anthologies; and in those days I was interested only in the sort of thing I wanted to do myself, and took no interest in what diverged from my own directions. But his poetry differs from Georgian verse proper in important respects. The majority of those writers occupied [ 523 Critical Note to The Collected Poems of Harold Monro themselves with subject matter which is – and not in the best sense – impersonal; which belongs to the sensibility of the ordinary sensitive person , not primarily only to that of the sensitive poet; it was not always easy to distinguish the work of one author from the work of another; the result was a considerable number of pleasing anthology pieces. Furthermore, most of it was static: it failed to show any very interesting development in the mind and experience of the author. Now Monro, with his amiable, but uncritical capacity for admiring other people’s verse, gives me the impression of having tried, in some of his earlier work, but probably unconsciously , to be more like other writers than he really was. His originality, in all but his latest work, is not immediately apparent from any one poem; it was not indeed until re-reading the whole of his published work that I recognised completely how distinctly, in his whole work, the vision is the personal vision of Harold Monro. Had Monro been a poet who could have worked out his own method in isolation, and ignored the attempts of his contemporaries, he might earlier have found a more personal idiom. It was part of the irony of his situation that, being essentially a different kind of poet, with different things to say, from any of his elder or younger contemporaries, he was yet actively and passionately interested in “poetry,” in the confraternity of poets, and in the publication and dissemination of their writings. The other poets about him were occupied with either more obvious or more recondite imaginings . And his difficulties in expression must have been considerable. He is at the same time very intimate and very reticent. He does not express the spirit of an age; he expresses the spirit of one man, but that so faithfully that his poetry will remain as one variety of the infinite number of possible expressions of tortured human consciousness. Monro is obviously not a “nature poet.” The attitude towards nature which we find again and again...


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