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A Review of the Review by Adam Sedia

January 31, 2019

 

Following some recent inquiries and critiques, we are affording Mr. Adam Sedia the opportunity to clear up certain questions in regards to his most recent essay, Clarity and Obscurity: The Essences of Classicism and Modernism Compared.

 

The initial critique of Mr. Sedia's essay can be found on TheHyperTexts in the "Spotlight" section entitled "The Chained Muse."

 

A Reply to Misdirected Criticism

 

by Adam Sedia


My last essay got quite a rise out of some readers, most vocally Michael R. Burch of The Hypertexts. Mr. Burch went so far as to call my piece "dross" and my editor a "self-appointed Messiah," and proposed to rebut its arguments by "identifying free verse that doesn't suck."

But Mr. Burch attacks the essay he wanted to see, not the one actually written. The piece was not an attack on free verse as a style, but an exposure of modernism as a worldview.

But Mr. Burch declines to address this central thesis of the piece. He evades the issue. Instead, he presents a library of poems that he asserts contradict my arguments. But even there, his arguments are misguided at best and disingenuous at worst. The pieces by Shelley[1], Keats, and other classicists he identifies as "hazy" misrepresent what is merely an effective use of metaphor. On the other end, the poems he identifies as "clear" works by modernist poets owe more to classicism than Mr. Burch will admit. Modernism is a worldview, and any work by any poet can adhere or not adhere to that view in varying degrees. It cannot be inferred that because some poems by modernist poets are "clear" that Pound and Eliot did not know what they saying when they wrote on the modernist theory of poetry.

 

But Mr. Burch misses another point, too. In no way was my piece an attack on free verse, nor did I anywhere assert that "free verse sucks" as a general proposition. Indeed, modernist poems have many admirable qualities: Eliot's aphoristic brilliance, Yeats's evocative imagery, Pound's melding of Eastern and Western traditions.

But let none of these other admirable traits be confused with clarity. I have shown -- through the writings of the modernists themselves, no less -- that modernism elevates effect into its truth. But effect is subjective, and because of this can never be truth. Poetry that eschews or denies truth really has nothing to say. So I suppose if truth is really the ultimate value, then classical poetry is indeed superior.

[1] See an extended analysis of Shelley's "Music," which was cited as an an example of a classical poem lacking clarity. It is in fact an astounding example of the rigor and metaphorical power that goes into the crafting of even the seemingly most simple of poems. The analysis of Shelley's "Music" can be found in the concluding part of the article "
Some Simple Examples of Poetic Metaphor."

 

Adam Sedia (b. 1984) lives in his native Indiana, where he practices as a civil and appellate litigation attorney. His poems have appeared in print and online publications, and he has published two volumes of poetry: The Spring's Autumn (2013) and Inquietude (2016). He also composes music, which may be heard on his YouTube channel. He lives with his wife, Ivana, and their son.

 

 

A Note From the Editor

 

We wholeheartedly welcome such spirited debates because we believe that a real discussion on the question of modernism's success or failure as a philosophy has been all too often shouted down by those who wish to uphold their own arbitrary standards for art. However, those standards proffered are completely alien to the Greeks, the towering artistic geniuses of the Renaissance and the great legacy of immortal poets from Homer on to Dante, Shakespeare, Poe, Keats, Shelley et al. In asserting clarity over obscurity and the power of metaphor to uplift the thoughts of man, we are simply re-asserting a timeless standard established by the greatest poets throughout history, be they Greek, Chinese, Arabic, Italian, English etc...

 

The Editor

 

David B. Gosslein

 

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