Sentimentality and Irony:

More Excerpts from
John Frederick Nims'Western Wind

From "Pity" by William Blake

One false view of poets is that it's their mission to give us "beauty" by seeing only the good,
the noble, the inspiring in reality. What we get is a more meaningful world, not a nicer one,
not a distortion of reality. Poets try to avoid the conventionally pretty, what might be
overused in the middling poems of the past, Hallmark Cards, etc. Often their best work
comes from what has been previously overlooked and therefore fresh. The more
consciously "poetic" (in the conventional sense) the materials out of which a poem is made,
the poorer the poem is likely to be.

The Antipoetic

Emerson in "The American Scholar" pointed out that with the rise of democracy there came
a change in literature: Instead of the sublime and beautiful, "the near, the low, the common,
was explored and poeticized."

Irony, Paradox

Carl Jung--The sad truth is that man's real life consists of a complex of inexorable
opposites.

Paradox-- A statement that seems to imply a contradiction. In its Greek form, the word meant
contrary to expectation.

Oxymoron--Might be translated from the Greek as cleverly stupid. Or absurd on purpose.

Irony-- Directs our attention in any of several ways to a relation of opposites.

Understatement, The Withheld Image

Voltaire--The way to bore people is to tell them everything.

Dizzy Gillespie--It took me all my life to learn the biggest music lesson of them all--what
not to play.

Robert Frost--The unsaid part is the best part.

Never tell a reader what will leap into his mind without your telling. So the meaning can
explode within the reader, not just within the words on the page.

Litotes--A form of understatement, asserts the truth by denying its opposite. Not bad for a
good cup of coffee.

Hyperbole--Overstatement, Greek--throwing beyond the mark. Not lies. Only the very naive
would take them seriously.

Back to Essays, Issues, Poetics

Home | Journals in UALR Library | Other Links