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How Poetry is Created

How poetry is created and how the creation is experienced are related but distinct aspects of the poetic enterprise. Aristotle expects "the man who possesses the master-art of poetic interpretation" to have a command of distinct "modes of utterance" or the elements of language (Poetics 53), such as the kind of statement (interrogative, declarative, request) being made. But he also distinguishes between interpretation and creation, explaining that criticism directed at poetry that does not conform to the critic's notion of what form poetic expression "should" take is inferior to criticism that seeks to identify what that expression "is." That is why he condemns Protagoras's "carping criticism of Homer" for (as Protagoras thinks) not understanding the difference between a prayer and a command (Poetics 53). Nevertheless, Aristotle makes the point that poetic style can be evaluated and graded. The best poetic expression is "clear without being low," with low meaning the least subtle because it "uses the regular words for things" (Poetics 59). As expressions become less direct, or more "alien," and according as they are employed moderately, in proportion with more straightforward language, the poetry is likely to achieve "an effect of distinction, while at the same time by virtue of its overlapping with normal usage [] will promote clarity" (Poetics 59). Aristotle uses the term alien as a proxy for "anything other than the standard terminology"; metaphor is an instance of alien language that can lend distinction and clarity to poetic expression.

In Aristotle's formulation, metaphor is a linguistic mechanism that can help the poet reach meaning. Much criticism subsequent to the Poetics is concerned with identifying when and how metaphor functions to make meaning, as well as what the content of the meaning is. Some criticism is concerned with identifying the failures of metaphor, which may lead to analysis of what are perceived as the fail...

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How Poetry is Created. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 22:55, June 24, 2019, from