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Herbert Read (1893 – 1968)


English anarchist, poet, and critic of literature and art.
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Herbert Read
Why do we forget our childhood? With rare exceptions we have no memory of our first four, five, or six years, and yet we have only to watch the development of our own children during this period to realize that these are precisely the most exciting, the most formative years of life. Schachtel’s theory is that our infantile experiences, so free, so uninhibited, are suppressed because they are incompatible with the conventions of an adult society which we call ‘civilized’. The infant is a savage and must be tamed, domesticated. The process is so gradual and so universal that only exceptionally will an individual child escape it, to become perhaps a genius, perhaps the selfish individual we call a criminal. The significance of this theory for the problem of sincerity in art (and in life) is that occasionally the veil of forgetfulness that hides our infant years is lifted and then we recover all the force and vitality that distinguished our first experiences—the ‘celestial joys’ of which Traherne speaks, when the eyes feast for the first time and insatiably on the beauties of God’s creation. Those childhood experiences, when we ‘enjoy the World aright’, are indeed sincere, and we may therefore say that we too are sincere when in later years we are able to recall these innocent sensations.
Read quotes
The great modern heresy in poetry is to confuse the use we make of words in a poem with modalities of speech...For true poetry is never speech but always a song.
Read
The modern poet has no essential alliance with regular schemes of any sorts.He reserves the right to adapt his rhythm to his mood, to modulate his metre as he progresses. Far from seeking freedom and irresponsibility (implied by the unfortunate term free verse) he seeks a stricter discipline of exact concord of thought and feeling.




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Once we become conscious of a feeling and attempt to make a corresponding form, we are engaged in an activity which, far from being sincere, is prepared (as any artist if he is sincere will tell you) to moderate feelings to fit the form. The artist’s feeling for form is stronger than a formless feeling.
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The work of art ... is an instrument for tilling the human psyche, that it may continue to yield a harvest of vital beauty.
Herbert Read quotes
I believe that the poet is necessarily an anarchist, and that he must oppose all organized conceptions of the State, not only those which we inherit from the past, but equally those which are imposed on people in the name of the future.
Herbert Read
Poetry is creative expression; Prose is constructive expression. … by creative I mean original. In Poetry the words are born or reborn in the act of thinking. … There is no time interval between the words and the thought when a real poet writes, both of them happen together, and both the thought and the word are Poetry.
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These are the sensations and feelings that are gradually blunted by education, staled by custom, rejected in favor of social conformity.
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