The Vocation to be Creative

December 9, 2009

I have often been struck by the Catholic Catechism where it states that the human person is called to share in the creative force of our Heavenly Father. Poets and artists share in that creativity in a particular way.

‘Honest criticism and sensitive appreciation are directed not upon the poet but upon the poetry.  If we attend to the confused cries of the newspaper critics and the susurrus of popular repetition that follows, we shall hear the names of poets in great numbers; if we seek not blue-book knowledge but the enjoyment of poetry, and ask for a poem, we shall seldom find it.  I have tried to point out the importance of the relation of the poem to other poems by other authors, and suggested the conception of poetry as a living whole of all the poetry that has ever been written.  The other aspect of this impersonal theory of poetry is the relation of the poem to its author.  And I hinted, by an analogy, that the mind of the mature poet differs from that of the immature one not precisely in any valuation of ‘personality,’ not being necessarily more interesting, or having ‘more to say,’ but rather by being a more finely perfected medium in which special, or very varied, feelings are at liberty to enter into new combinations.

‘The analogy was that of the catalyst.  When the two gases previously mentioned are mixed in the presence of a filament of platinum, they form sulfurous acid.  This combination takes place only if the platinum is present; nevertheless the newly formed acid contains no trace of platinum, and the platinum itself is apparently unaffected; has remained inert, neutral, and unchanged.  The mind of the poet is the shred of platinum.  It may partly or exclusively operate upon the experience of the man himself; but, the more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind which creates; the more perfectly will the mind digest and transmute the passions which are its material.’

T.S. Eliot Tradition and the Individual Talent


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