Monday, November 06, 2006

Hall on Formalism

"Formalism, with its dream of finite measurement, is a beautiful arrogance, a fantasy of materialism. When we find what's to measure and measure it, we should understand style-as-fingerprint, quantifying characteristic phonemic sequence ... or whatever. But it seems likely that we will continue to intuit qualities, like degrees of intensity, for which objective measure is impossible. Then hard-noses will claim that only the measurable exists—which is why hard-nose usually means soft-head. "

From "Poetry and Ambition" Kenyon Review, n.s., 5, no. 4 (1983), and was reprinted in Pushcart Prize IX: Best of the Small Presses, 1984-85, and the AWP Bulletin, Feb.-Mar., 1987. Published in 1988 in Poetry and Ambition: Essays 1982-88 by Donald Hall.


jenni said...

"which is why hard-nose usually means soft-head."

that made me laugh. i have a book of his essays that's really good, it has a weird title, i can't think of it right now. --Goatfoot, Milktongue, Twinbird-- Yea, that's it.

Nick said...

RE: "Goatfoot, Milktongue, Twinbird"

I'm hunting it down on as I write this. Thanks for the reference, Jenni.