Enclosure – Rough draft of letter to Louis MacNeice from RG

Dear Mr. MacNeice,
Your review in the Listener: parts of it coherent, parts incoherent.
I feel that[RG] their professed concern with exclusively 'poetic meaning' is, on analysis, a self-deception.
Either you feel it is so, or else you have analyzed it as so: but ×××× [crossed out] make up your mind. If analysis, the process should be demonstrated; if mere feeling, then do some thinking to test it.
What meaning would you have for a poem but poetic meaning? Political? Literary? Economic? What other meaning would you profess as a poet even if unable to keep your poems as clean (in the agricultural sense) as you would wish? Do you trust Science as supplying meaning to a poem where poetic meaning is absent ×××× [crossed out] (you rate me for mistrusting science)? Yes, I have a horror of Otherness: as opposed to Intrinsicality. As a poet you too should have this horror: then your poems
might be frightened into some centrality. The schizophrenic [sic: schizophreniac] imagines that he is torn into two or more selves: but to see the present drawing away as a separate world from the temporarily co-existent past is not schizophrenia but critical observation.
Your second sentence does not make sense: a carelessness of proof correcting, I think.
I do not write like a metaphysician; and are not metaphysics impure? The history of metaphysicians is very impure.
The notion of poems as parthen[RG]ogenetic is at least preferable to that of poems born in sodomy, as is the case of some of your ×××× [crossed out] contemporaries'[RG] work; but I do not see that the sexual ×××× [crossed out] metaphor holds. Nor did I ever advocate 'purity' of poetry in the sense you suggest: I imagine that this is an invention designed to excuse the pleasantly disordered 'very-human' [figure - figure – handwritten cross] 1 life that you live yourself. It is true that poetry seems to me no longer poetry in a present[RG] real[RG] sense
that is mere descriptive or evocative of physical affect; but all words have a physical history which cannot be denied. The choice is not between poems written in vacus 3 and poems written in fucus 4, but between poems written in relation[RG] [RG] that carry their own world with them[RG] with faith in poetry[RG] and poems that are patched out of old worlds.[RG] written with[RG] faith or faithfulness in other things.[RG]
What surprises me about[RG] The view of Laura Riding's poems, which you seem to share with Julian Symonds and one or two others that it is[RG] the Times Lit. Supp. and W.H. Auden [RG] as[RG] rarefied in the[RG] and[RG] metaphysical sense[RG] is a[RG] that you do not seem to have read them is[RG] surprising one to me. as blind as ungrateful. You might be[RG] Are you sure that[RG] It is almost as if[RG] you do not[RG] meant someone else — ×××× [crossed out] 'Æ' Russell5 or someone[RG] Santayana6or the like[RG] — for nothing[RG] rarified metaphysical language is ×××× [crossed out] the avoidance of meaning by constan[RG] pulling[RG] piling the weight of[RG] responsibility for[RG] significance on the broad shoulders etc etc

Editorial Notes

1see RG's note, p.2
2 [figure - figure – handwritten cross] Neville [sic: Nevill] Chamberlain's phrase
3in emptiness eds.
4in full colour? with a painted veneer? eds.
5(1865-1935) George William Russell (pseudonym Æ) Irish poet, author, activist. eds.
6George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish philosopher and writer eds.

Hands Referenced

    • Annotation: ink correction
    • Character: regular
    • Ink: black

People Mentioned

  • Laura

    Riding, Laura
    (1901-91) American poet. Laura Riding (née Reichenthal; then Laura Gottschalk).
  • Robert

    Graves, Robert
    [1st person]. (1895-1985). Poet, novelist, essayist, critic, and author of his diary. eds.
  • Louis MacNeice

    MacNeice, Louis
    Irish poet (1907-1963). eds.
  • Chamberlain

    Chamberlain, Neville
    (1869-1940) British Prime Minister in the 1930s; m. to Anne Chamberlain née Cole eds.
  • Julian Symons

    Symons, Julian
    (1912-1994) novelist and poet, editor of the London magazine,Twentieth Century Verse eds.
  • Auden

    Auden, W.H.
    British poet (1907-1973). R.G. disliked. eds

Organizations Mentioned

  • Editors

    Editors of the Graves Diary Project.


    • Title: Listener, The [BBC magazine]
    • Editor: Janet Adam Smith
    • PubPlace: London
    • Title: Times Literary Supplement
    • PubPlace: London
    • Publisher: Times London
    • Date: 1902-1968