Jacques Maritain. The A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts.
10-second review: Creative intuition is the seed of art and poetry. Poetry is a process in communication between the artist and the inner spirit of the objects outside the artist. Oriental art concentrates on the inner spirit of the object, not the inner spirit of the artist. Western art has developed in focus from the outside object to the inner consciousness of the artist’s mind.
Sample quotes and ideas. The ideas in bold-face print are my attempts to paraphrase the quote.
“…poetic experience, though it terminates ‘in an arrangement of words on paper,’ or of notes on a score or of colors on a canvas, is of itself a sort of natural contemplation, obscure and affective, and implies a moment of silence and alert receptivity. Without this moment of contemplation there is no poetic activity.” [Poetic experience requires a moment of receptive contemplation.] p. 188.
“…the essential difference which separates the poetic sense from the logical sense.” 191.
“As to the logical or intelligible sense, it is only one of the elements or components of the poetic sense.” p. 192.
“…no poem can be absolutely clear, since no poem can receive its being from the intelligible or logical sense uniquely.” [No poem can be completely clear because no poem is completely logical. The logical sense only contributes to the poetic sense.] p. 194.
“The intelligible sense dawning in the images is only implicit.” [The meaning of the image is implicit.] p. 197.
“The intelligible meaning is not only implicit, but undetermined. Our intelligence is aware of the existence of a signification, but the signified remains unknown.” [The exact meaning of an image is not determined.] p. 198.
“For the poem is an object made of words, the most ungrateful and treacherous material—sounds which are poor in color and variety, signs which are worn out by social use, haunted by swarms of adventitious associations, and stubbornly fixed in the least connotations of their meaning.” [Words are a limited instrument to use to convey the poetic sense.] p. 207.
“Thus it is that the music of words is of absolute necessity for the classical poem; and together with the music of words, the rhyme, and all the prosodic requirements of a regular form. All these laws and exigencies are but the instruments of liberation of the poetic sense.” [All of the requirements of poetry are necessary in the classic poem to liberate the poetic sense. The controls on the language liberate.] p. 213.
“Modern poetry has undertaken completely to set free the poetic sense.” p. 214.
“…modern poetry had to dispense with the regular form of the poem, and the necessity of the rhyme, and the other requirements of classical prosody.” p. 221.
“…criticism is but ‘the satisfaction of a suppressed creative wish.’ ”p. 224.
“The poet does not have to invest any argument with emotional force, because he does not begin with any argument. He begins with creative emotion, or poetic intuition, and the argument follows.” [The poet begins with creative emotion or poetic intuition, not with an argument.] p. 258.
“…blanks…have as much impact on the mind as what is actually expressed.” [What is not expressed is as significant as what is expressed.]p. 260.
“Of every music it is true to say that the song begins where the word stops, as a bursting forth of a spiritual and emotional stir or exultation of the subjectivity—too deeply subjective, too existentially singular, too incommunicably affective to be possibly conveyed by any meaning of the words.” [The music begins when the words end because only the music can express the inexpressible.] p. 294.
“…music…has the peculiar privilege…of expressing—beyond any possible meaning of words—the most deeply subjective…to be possibly expressed by any other art.” p. 295.
Comment: I think I understood the main outlines of the book’s thought. I agree that art and poetry begin with creative intuition and a powerful emotion, that logic is only one component in art and poetry and that Western art and poetry have developed from a focus on external objects to the inner consciousness of the artist. Along the way the author provides other insights into art and poetry.
Was it worth the struggle to understand this book? I think so. Like the intuition that is the seed of art and poetry, the author’s ideas will grow in my mind. RayS.