There are three things I like about Alkman’s poem.
The fourth thing I like
About Alkman’s poem
Is the impression it gives
of blurting out the truth in spite of itself.
Many a poet aspires
to this tone of inadvertent lucidity
but few realize it so simply as Alkman.
Of course his simplicity is a fake.
Alkman is not simple at all,
He is a master contriver –
or what Aristotle would call an “imitator”
Imitation (mimesis in Greek)
is Aristotle’s collective term for the true mistakes of poetry.
What I like about this term
Is the ease with whish it accepts
that what we are engaged in when we do poetry is error,
the wilful creation of error,
the deliberate break and complication of mistakes
out of which may arise
So a poet like Alkman
sidesteps fear, anxiety, shame, remors
and all the other silly emotions associated with making
in order to engage
the fact of the matter
The fact of the matter for humans is imperfection.
Plato on mimesis: If aesthetics is the philosophical inquiry into art and beauty (or a contemporary surrogate for beauty, e.g. aesthetic value), the striking feature of Plato’s dialogues is that he devotes so much time to both topics but treats them oppositely. Art, mostly as represented by poetry, is closer to a greatest danger than any other phenomenon Plato speaks of, while beauty is close to a greatest good.
So then, Mr. Plato, here is a question for you:
How do you feel about Carson claiming that Alkman is cultivating error, deliberately, to make beauty? Have you, Mr P, ever considered the beauty of error?
fragment of Alkman’s poem
Anne Carson ART LITERATURE Poetry Reading to write writing Alkman american poetry Ancient Greek Anne Carson Aristotle Contemporary poetry Essay on What I Think About Most literature Men in the Off Hours philosophy Plato poem poet poetics poetry
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