Sep 13, 2010

The Imagism of Early Winters

I have been reading and greatly enjoying Laureates and Heretics, the new book by Bob Archambeau, a student of one of Yvor Winters's last students in the mid-1960s (Archambeau now teaches at Lake Forest College in Illinois). In his chapter on Winters, as canon-heretic, Archambeau places a lot of emphasis on Winters's imagist poetry and poetic theories. Yet I don't quite see how Winters's imagist beginnings have much to do with his eventual attainment of the status of heretic, but I found the discussion tangentially insightful and helpful in a number of ways. Archambeau's main point, that Winters has been rejected from the canon because his mature poetic theories and practice were not consonant with the much more frequent practices and much more frequently espoused theories of the prominent poets and critics of his times (and are dissonant with our times as well) is enlightening, if, perhaps, rather obvious. In general, I have appreciated Archambeau's emphasis on literary canons and their making, though I think Archambeau makes a big mistake in not defining what a canon (or "the" canon) is -- or at least what he thinks it is or ought to be. I admit, though, his defintion of canon, which is crucial to the study of Yvor Winters and the whole matter of classicism (Archambeau calls it Augustanism) and so-called traditional verse in our times, might arise cumulatively in the course of the book. I might study parts of this book in more depth on this blog in the months to come.


Capt. Donald Kilpela Sr. said...

It seems that the Yvor Winters' interest group has a very limited membership. Are you in actual contact with other members of this club? Someday you must lend me a collection of Winters' poetry.

Ben Kilpela said...

Yes, the number of people who we could even weakly say are interested in Winters is few, it seems clear, and the number of people (poets, critics, or readers) who could be called adherents or followers of Winters in some weak sense appears to be much, much fewer than that, perhaps no more than a handful in all the world. One of the main purposes of this blog is to get his art and ideas in front of people who might be interested in his work, since it has been almost entirely dismissed and forgotten --or even seldom considered worth understanding or appreciating. I will think about what poems I should send you, someone with hardly any knowledge of Winters's work, to start you on Winters and give you a taste of his poetry. Suggestions from any readers of this blog, few though they appear to be, are welcome, as always.