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For aesthetics is the mother of ethics. Were we to choose our leaders on the basis of their reading experience and not their political programs, there would be much less grief on earth. I believe-not empirically, alas, but only theoretically-that for someone who has read a lot of Dickens to shoot his like in the name of an idea is harder than for someone who has read no Dickens.
If a poet has any obligation toward society, it is to write well. Being in the minority, he has no other choice. Failing this duty, he sinks into oblivion. Society, on the other hand, has no obligation toward the poet. A majority by definition, society thinks of itself as having other options than reading verses, no matter how well written. Its failure to do so results in its sinking to that level of locution at which society falls easy prey to a demagogue or a tyrant. This is society's own equivalent of oblivion.
Every writing career starts as a personal quest for sainthood, for self-betterment. Sooner or later, and as a rule quite soon, a man discovers that his pen accomplishes a lot more than his soul.
I do not believe in political movements. I believe in personal movement, that movement of the soul when a man who looks at himself is so ashamed that he tries to make some sort of change-within himself, not on the outside.
In the works of the better poets you get the sensation that they're not talking to people any more, or to some seraphical creature. What they're doing is simply talking back to the language itself --as beauty, sensuality, wisdom, irony --those aspects of language of which the poet is a clear mirror. Poetry is not an art or a branch of art, it's something more. If what distinguishes us from other species is speech, then poetry, which is the supreme linguistic operation, is our anthropological, indeed genetic, goal. Anyone who regards poetry as an entertainment, as a read, commits an anthropological crime, in the first place, against himself.
It would be enough for me to have the system of a jury of twelve versus the system of one judge as a basis for preferring the U.S. to the Soviet Union. I would prefer the country you can leave to the country you cannot.
No matter under what circumstances you leave it, home does not cease to be home. No matter how you lived there-well or poorly.
The surest defense against Evil is extreme individualism, originality of thinking, whimsicality, even -- if you will -- eccentricity. That is, something that can't be feigned, faked, imitated; something even a seasoned imposter couldn't be happy with.
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