Use Your Imagination!

So, I’m sad that I didn’t have any response to the prompt. Maybe I wasn’t clear: it would be REALLY AWESOME to have some responses to the question under the “Prompt!” section. Like I said in the first post, I want this blog to be living, to have me and you all interacting and learning from each other. So, it would be great to have more responses to that. Of course, prompt is just awful, just tell me so! Enough of that… I’m very glad that some of you are responding, so definitely don’t stop that!

So, I said I would talk a little bit about who I thought would make a great Romantic poet. At first I was like, Well, duh, Bob Dylan. Then I got to thinking, That’s too obvious. While Dylan would probably make a great Romantic, at least in his early days, I believe another musician–often called a “Dylan Clone”–fits the bill better, especially since he’s from Scotland:

Donovan Leitch

If you don’t know Donovan, he’s definitely worth looking up. Many of his early tunes are quite Wordsworthian. Check out “Colours” and “Catch the Wind.” Both of these carry themes associated with the acronym P.A.I.N. we discussed in the last post. If you dig this old folk stuff, check out his greatest hits. You may have heard Mellow Yellow,” “Riki Tiki Tavi,” and other songs by him, but one of my favorites, and you’re definitely allowed to make fun of me for it, is “Atlantis.” Listen to this song, and it will prepare you for what we’re about to talk about with Coleridge.

Imagination(s)

Coleridge became a big shot in Literary Theory. Later in his life, he wrote an autobiography entitled Biographia Literaria. In the thirteenth chapter we find one of Coleridge’s most prominent ideas about literature, that mankind has two imaginations.

Sorry, Luke, according to Coleridge, it’s true. In fact, Coleridge believed the imagination, divided into a Primary and Secondary, was the most crucial power of the mind. It was what separated mankind from the animals. Coleridge, who was at times a minister and seeker of God, goes so far to say that reason cannot bring man closer to God; man can only reach God through the power of imagination. This idea also stands as Coleridge’s straightforward criticism of the Enlightenment and his reaffirmation of the Poet’s job to seek truth.

Primary Imagination

The primary imagination functions as that part of the imagination which acts as the prime agent of perception. Every stimulus to which our bodies responds interacts with the primary imagination. For example, think about eating your favorite pie. From cutting yourself a piece to chewing that last delicious piece of crust, your mind is interacting with the pie. You get the goopy fruit on your hands. Lick it off and taste the filling–that’s what I would do! As you eat it, you’re tasting, smelling, feeling… According to Coleridge, this is your Primary Imagination working as it interacts with stimulus. Of course, he uses fancier words like, “a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM.” He can’t help using big words; he’s a Romantic!

Secondary Imagination

The secondary imagination works like a bucket and a well. Every experience you’ve ever had fills up a well of experience. Down in this well each experience, perception, memory, feeling, etc. mingles together waiting for the bucket to be lowered and filled. When the Second Imagination is at work the bucket is lowered filling with a smorgasbord of perception, thus creating something new. This imagination also differs from the primary in that it must be consciously used and is at times limited. One uses the Secondary Imagination when creating, whether it’s a paper for Creative Writing or a poem for your secret diary.

So, what’s it all mean (and how does it apply to anything)?

Well, this theory is important because it really goes back to what Wordsworth said in the preface to The Lyrical Ballads and in other places that imagination lies close to the heart and mingles with emotions. Wordsworth says things like, “[P]oetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” This is quite close to what Coleridge describes in his ideas about the imagination. Recollected emotion is from that well which all experiences lie. Though the two poets disagree at times–Coleridge felt that Wordsworth was awful at using the language of the common man–their theories of imagination and creativity work similarly.

Let’s look at it with the P.A.I.N. paradigm.

Primitivism–The primary imagination takes in surroundings, creations from God, the most primitive of all things, while the secondary imagination stores these things in one place

Art and the Artist–It’s the old question: which defines which? Coleridge says that it’s not necessarily the artist that creates his art but the artist’s experiences. It’s almost passive creation; in a way, the poet is only a medium.

The Individual–It’s too obvious. All reactions to stimuli are stored in the individuality of the artist. No artist will have these same gathered perceptions, thus the artist is seen as a lone creator.

The Natural–Simply, Nature is the source of all stimuli for the Imagination.

Prompt!

I’ll reintroduce this one: Considering the P.A.I.N. paradigm and other things we’ve discussed, what modern-day person would fit in well with the Romantics?

Next time:

We’ll take a look at a couple poems by Coleridge and introduce my man John Keats.

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A Time of Turbulence.

Thanks to those of you who posted your answers to what you thought about Romantic Poets.

Of course, Candy just came right out and hit some of the high points of Romantic Poetry and Poets: “not about mushy, gushy love” but an interpretation of surroundings through imagination.

Harold Bloom and Lionel Trilling have this to say about Romanticism:

“Romanticism resists its definers, who can fix neither its characteristics nor its dates. It is a broad movement [and] whether it represented a genuine change in consciousness we still cannot know.” (Romantic Poetry and Prose, 3)

Of course, we must go against Bloom and Trilling’s unwillingness to contain the Romantic Period so that this blog is not amorphous. Many scholars have for many years studied this period and tried to define it. I am not a scholar. I will not be spending years on this blog–probably. For all practical learning purposes we will come up with our own definition.

Storm-Born Saints


Out of the smoke of the French Revolution of 1798 blew a Spirit that would fill the hearts of men who were waiting for these sparks of social change. As Keats would say later, “The Great Spirits of the earth are now sojourning … these will give the world another heart / And other pulses.”  As the French revolted against a way of life that no longer worked for their good, the Poets lifted up their pens in literary battle against the stuffiness of the Enlightenment. Where the Enlightenment suppressed emotion, these poets would free it; where the Enlightenment shackled lines to strict meter, these same poets would release the fetters. It’s crazy how often this type of rebellion happens. I mean, look at the Hipsters. Aren’t they the perfect example of the constant rebellion against social norms and standards?

Allow me to demonstrate how these guys did it:

“Wit is like faith by such warm Fools profest
Who to be saved by one, must damn the rest.”

(Alexander Pope, of the Enlightenment, “Couplets on Wit”)

Compared With

“Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art–
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite…”

(John Keats, a Romantic, “[Bright Star]”)

The difference is obvious. Both are fit examples of their literary periods: Pope of the Enlightenment, Keats of Romanticism. They differ in subject matter, style, meter, and well, just about everything.

Keats is, in a sense, being mushy, gushy, and all that, but he’s not like that guy or girl that left weird notes in your locker in 8th grade.

P.A.I.N.

It’s been said that all true art is born from the suffering soul. In Keats’s poem “Bright Star,” he is agonizing over how he wishes his love could be eternal, like the moon is in the sky.  Read this acronym; then read “Bright Star.”

P: Primitivism– The Romantic poet will deal with the rustic man, the noble savage, the pastoral life, and Mother Nature herself. Wordsworth especially taps into this idea and proclaims to write in the language of man (cf. “Preface to the Lyrical Ballads“)

A: Art/Artist– The Romantic poet will explore the connection between art and the artist, answering such questions as “Which came first?” and “Which is more important?” Along with this each poet explores the creative process in his own way, finding it in the imagination, blowing in the West Wind, or in many other places.

I: The Individual– As Candy said, these poets will concentrate on the individual–not only the writer alone as an individual or his own importance, but also man’s individuality in self-worth and sometimes alienation.

N: Nature– The Romantics will write on Nature, its divine attributes and man’s relation to it. This theme will often tie in with that of the primitive and in some cases the individual, as well (cf. The Lucy Poems, Forgive my Wiki Link. It was too handy.)

See what I’m talking about? We’re going to put the Romantics in a box of P.A.I.N. from now on, but to make sure we’ve got this right, we’ll look at what the poets themselves had to say, starting out with William Wordsworth.

Wordsworth

Wordsworth handles most of these themes in his Preface to his Lyrical Ballads. If you want to be awesome, go read the whole thing. To help you out, I’ll hit some of the high points (all of these come from The Oxford Anthology of English Literature: Romantic Poetry and Prose):

“The principal object, then, which I proposed to myself in these poems was to choose incidents and situations from common life…in a language really used by men.” (595)

“Low and rustic life was generally chosen, because in that condition the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language…” (596)

“For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings…” (596)

“I hope that there is in these poems little falsehood of description…” (599)

“[Poetry’s] object is truth.” (603)

Prompt!

So, from what I’ve just spent too long saying, what is a Romantic Poet “all about” anyway? Also, give a modern example of person who could have hung out with these guys–a poet, musician, writer, etc.

Next time: Who i think would make a great romantic poet -and- a little bit on Coleridge and his thoughts on the romantic

Coleridge says, “Check out Jeff’s Blog and Jared’s, as well.”

Starting Out.

The goal of this blog is to teach and inspire by taking brief looks the British Romantic Poets, their works, lives, and thoughts. Each post will contain a driving thought, a prompt for response from you that will–under positive circumstances–drive the next post into being. Over time topics such as Who Is a Poet? and What–Exactly–Is Poetry (And What Isn’t)? will be covered by taking several prose and poetry pieces from each poet, examining it, and possibly making a modern comparison to the poet or piece.

The key for this whole project is

me researching my eyeballs out

spilling my guts out and calling it poetry

reader participation.

Learning goes both ways.

By way of feedback, this blog will be a “living” blog and will take its cue from the comments made on each post. Thus, the learning process will be a sort of symbiosis, involving me and you. I want to learn not only how to make this blog thing work–and work well–but how poets who lived almost two centuries ago across the Atlantic still influence the culture around me and, ultimately, me.

How does that sound to you? Give me some ideas. I take feedback well, so tear into me if you want. Just don’t be too mean.

Look forward to and be thinking about:

Who is a Romantic, again? Surely not the creepy guy in high school who always talked in iambic pentameter, right? Tell me what you think. Can you define a Romantic Poet in a few words?