Let's Learn the Craft
by Anthony Esolen
One of my students tells me that the other day in his poetry-writing class, the instructor wrote on the blackboard columns of abstract nouns, concrete nouns, and verbs. The students were to pick an item from each column and then make up a metaphor, mixing and matching things. Call it playing Mr. Poetry Head.
That's something like what the last fifty years of authors of hymns have been doing. You take an idea you picked up in your night-school social theology class, match it with six or seven piety-words taken at random, and paste it onto a Jesus-moment or a Yahweh-moment. The result will be bad enough if you remain on the level of the blandly abstract, and you don't strain too hard. It will be downright ridiculous if you allow yourself the illusion that you are a poet. God spare us the creativity of the pious and incompetent.
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Anthony Esolen is a professor and writer-in-residence at Magdalene College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, New Hampshire. His many books include Sex in the Unreal City: The Demolition of the Western Mind, Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child, Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture, and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord. He is a regular contributor to Chronicles, Crisis Magazine, The Claremont Review, Inside the Vatican Things, The Catholic Thing, and American Greatness. He has translated Dante's Divine Comedy. He is a Roman Catholic and lives with his wife in New Hampshire. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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