Thursday, March 01, 2012

Poetic Sprezzatura

“I have found quite a universal rule which in this matter seems to me valid above all other, and in all human affairs whether in word or deed: and that is to avoid affectation in every way possible as though it were some rough and dangerous reef; and (to pronounce a new word perhaps) to practice in all thing a certain sprezzatura (nonchalance), so as to conceal all art and make whatever is done or said appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.” 

(Baldassare Castiglione, The Book of Courtier, apud wikipedia)

Sprezzatura, then, is something that can intuitively be linked to the act of writing poetry.

 Some poets appear to be graced with an innate gift of poetic fluency which allows them to effortlessly move from one metaphor to another in a most surprising manner.

It’s a context that we’ve often found ourselves in, taken aback by the blandishments of an author’s imagination and his/her ability to tinker with vowels and consonants.

I’d like to move through the paradigm of sprezzatura in poetry in step with the verses of two Canadian poets:

"This is the one song everyone
would like to learn: the song
that is irresistible:

the song that forces men
to leap overboard in squadrons
even though they see the beached skull"

-          the beginning of the poem Siren Song by Margaret Atwood

"The Black Spruce
point to it: clarity
becomes us, melting into ordinary morning. True
north. Where the sky is just a name,
a way to pitch a little tent in space and sleep
for five unnumbered seconds."

as an illustration of the courtly & mesmerizing affability of poetry. 

An affability which we can carry with us, with nonchalance, into everyday life.


Conrad DiDiodato said...


I like that "nonchalance" principle of poetry writing. I find the very best productions always appear to have been done without any effort at all. But that's deceptive. The greater the skill (and foundation) the more resources the poet can draw on.

Alexander Pope made the same case for "naturalness" in his "Essay on Man".

Irina M. said...

Hello Conrad:

I agree, there is some deceptiveness - of the aesthetic kind - going in inside the making of poem, unbeknownst to the reader.

Something akin to a magician's trick, which results in doves flying above and rabbits poking nervous ears out of a top hat...:o)...

Thank you for stopping by.

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