Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Tragic Content

Derek Walcott, writing in Poetry Review on the subject of ‘The Poet in the Theatre’ [PR 80:4, 1990-1], asserts:
Great tragedies are based on the propulsion of metre as well as of character; that is, a symmetry of sound as well as of plot.
Wishful thinking, this (of course a poet would like to think this is the case). But nobody ever cried at a poetic sound effect. Even if Walcott means 'tragic content is rendered more tragic by the proper use of metre and language (though that's not what he said), he;s seriously underestimating the ability to drop into the melting mood at the prompt of an old song, an advert, a limerick, a pub anecdote, a look in a paticular somebody's eye ...

Later he is more on-target:
The idea of vacuity in modern tragedy is like the idea of the existential or the nihilistic: spiritual vanity. The depth of modern contemplation is of staring into the holes, the emptiest ‘O’ of all. Such vanity lies in the faith that for the tragic poets of the modern theatre, be they absurdists or minimalists, history happens only where it has meaning. And since for such writers history is now meaningless—at least as morality—where history does happen is the only place where modern tragedy can be played.
On the other hand, that 'O' has tragic potential, don't you think ...? A kind of Singularity of tragic content; the black hole of empathetic affective suffering.

No comments: