restricted access Correspondence: “That Poetry Is Made with Words"
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676 ] Correspondence: “That Poetry Is Made with Words” The New English Weekly, 15 (11 May 1939) 66 Mr. Eliot writes: My objection to the study of aesthetics by artists was empirical. Mr. Tomlin’s rejoinder is based upon an aesthetic theory: namely, that the reader of a poem shares the activity of the poet.1 This may be a tenable aesthetic theory, but I do not see that the holding of it enables the reader to enjoy or appreciate the poem any better. Mr. Tomlin says that “to appreciate poetry is to come as near as possible to feeling as the poet felt when writing it.” This reminds me of the investigator who, after an encounter with a ghost, reported that he “come as near to bein’ strangled as made no difference.”2 Notes 1. E. W. F. Tomlin’s letter to the editor of the NEW is in response to TSE’s “A Commentary,” subtitled “That Poetry Is Made with Words,” in the NEW of 27 Apr (5.668). “In the first place,” writes Tomlin, “if aesthetics and psychology are dangerous for the poet – because they tend to make him ‘conscious of what operates better unconsciously’ – I do not see why they are not equally dangerous both for the reader of poetry and for the critic – in short, for practically everyone who occupies himself with literature at all. To appreciate poetry is to come as near as possible to feeling as the poet felt when writing it. Now if the experience of the poet is damaged by an attempt to analyse it from an aesthetic or psychological point of view, the same must apply to the experience of the reader. Is not Mr. Eliot assuming a division of the reading public into ‘poets’ and ‘readers of poetry’ which is highly artificial? To be capable of appreciating poetry is to be, in a sense, a poet oneself ” (66). TSE’s reply appeared directly under Tomlin’s letter. 2. Source untraced. ...