Harry Eyres’ book is as much about the nature of poetry as about Horace, and I was struck by this quotation of Wallace Stevens, along with a comment by Ezra Pound that poets and artists could both be viewed as the ‘antennae of the race’, a role I believe is probably more widely accepted for artists than for poets.
As Eyres puts it: ‘Poetry in our time has been reduced to the status of a harmless hobby, like stamp collecting or kite flying. It is a fun activity for children, or a form of escapism. I take a different view. I stand with Ezra Pound, who said, “It is essential that great poetry be written,” and who saw poets and artists as the “antennae of the race”.’
Poetry, for me, is a distillation of life, whether in the grand sweep or in its small moments. And paring down to the essence of things, it is one of the most vital and vibrant channels for capturing and transmitting human experience across distances of time and culture.
“After one has abandoned a belief in god, poetry is that essence which takes its place as life’s redemption” – Wallace Stevens, Opus Posthumous.
Source: Harry Eyres, Horace and Me: Life Lessons from an Ancient Poet (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), p. 17