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Laura Riding (1901 – 1991)


Controversial modernist American poet and literary critic, associated initially with the Fugitives and later with Robert Graves.
Laura Riding
We live on the circumference of a hollow circle. We draw the circumference, like spiders, out of ourselves: it is all criticism of criticism.
Riding quotes
Shakespeare alternated between musical surrenders to social prestige and magnificent fits of poetic remorse.
Riding
Polygamy and polyandry distribute the frightening physical solidarity of monogamy. Monogamous couples are always hungry for company: to dilute sex.




Riding Laura quotes
But she [Virginia Woolf] is impotently distant from an understanding of the proper relations between literature and society, because she has no clear sense of the functions of literature. She sees writers as individual 'artists' working in mysterious privacy - which from time to time society rudely invades. Her writer, indeed, has all the characteristics of traditional 'femininity' - with society as the big strong male who should protect and cherish his literary womenfolk, but does not. She might - for all the application of her complaint to the relations between society and literature - be talking of the relations between husbands and wives.
Riding Laura
A new type of poem has been evolved and popularized by the demands of the anthology-reading public. It is called 'the perfect modern lyric.' Like the best-seller novel, it is usually achieved in the dark; but certain critical regulations can be made for it. It must be fairly regular in form and easily memorized, it must be a new combination of absolutely warn-out material, it must have a certain unhealthy vigour or languor, and it must start off engagingly with a simple sentimental statement. Somewhere a daring pseudo-poetical image must be included...
Laura Riding quotes
Politics have always covered two distinct kinds of problems: problems of administrative routine, and those that may be called 'questions of the moment.'... A question of the moment is, indeed, a substitute for some notion, such as the idea of God, or hereditary monarchy, or national glory, that has hitherto acted as a symbol of human co-ordination. It provides no new positive certainty to replace the discredited certainty, but is what the name implies: the raising of a question which the old certainty no longer answers.
Laura Riding
Much of the magical effect that poetry gives of rendering everything it touches pellucid comes from the necessity of compression that it imposes. The impossibility of pausing in poetry as long as may be needed to make sense clear causes many a set of words actually deficient in linguistic workmanship to pass for an eloquent brevity.
Riding Laura quotes
The object of all religious activity is to mingle the human and the non-human, and the lower gods represent that which is cast back to the human from the non-human – human gods merely, practice-gods who embody the errors which man makes in first conceiving the non-human.
Riding
The new "ambiguity" means, in a way adjudged favorable to literary, poetic, intellectually and psychologically well-devised and praiseworthily executed linguistic performance, uncertainty of meaning, or difficulty for the interpreter in identifying just what the meaning in question is: it means the old meanings of ambiguity with a difference. It means uncertainty of meaning (of a word or combination of words) purposefully incorporated in a literary composition for the attainment of the utmost possible variety of meaning-play compressible within the verbal limits of the composition.
Riding Laura
Daisy was a consciously happy young woman without any of the usual endowments that make for conscious happiness, money apart. She was not pretty, she was not clever, she had no friends, no talents, nor even an imagination to make her think she was happy when she was really miserable. As she was never miserable, she had no need of an imagination.
Laura Riding
The rhythmic pattern of the poem, which forces continuity of attention – incites a pleasurable compulsion to ‘follow’ – is either a tried metrical suasion-contrivance or a specially invented pattern of physical insistences, equally, if not more, binding in its effect on the reader. From a straight linguistic point of view, there is room for wonder if there is not latent vice in this environment in which pleasurable physically-compelled responses, produced by incidents of poetic utterance, are identified with the Good.




Laura Riding quotes
I would then say that there are two kinds of feeling. The first is to feel in the sense of concentrating your emotions on something immediately available for your understanding: you make your understanding out of the emotions you have about it. The second is to feel in the sense of being affected without trying to understand: something is felt, you do not know what, and it is more important to feel it than to try to understand it, since once you try to understand it you no longer feel it.
Laura Riding
Pseudo-modernists pursue individual style because they know they cannot make a name without it; but if they had lived in the eighteenth century their sole object would have been to write correctly, to conform to the manner of the period. In practice, their conforming individualism means an imitation, studiously concealed, of the eccentricities of poems which really are individual.
Riding quotes
Metaphor... is, as a common feature of linguistic practice, an incidental expediency, a homely administering of first-aid by mother-wit to jams or halts in expression suddenly confronting speakers, with no respectable linguistic solution immediately in sight.
Riding Laura
Woman is the symbol to man of the uncleanness of bodily existence, of which he purifies himself by putting her to noble uses. She thus has for him a double, contradictory significance; she is the subject of his bawdry and the subject of his romance.
Riding Laura quotes
Women from earliest times have been used as conveniences of communication with unseen, inaccessible powers, but always in the sense that such exposing of self to dangerous mysteries, such destruction of the understanding as was required to become the slave of unseen powers, did not matter because the communicant was only a woman, in herself an undetermined cipher – a nothing.
Laura Riding
Because most people are not sufficiently employed in themselves, they run about loose, hungering for employment, and satisfy themselves in various supererogatory occupations. The easiest of these occupations, which have all to do with making things already made, is the making of people: it is called the art of friendship.
Laura Riding quotes
I think you're right about the difference between the Trojan mind and the Greek mind: the Greeks live in their imaginations while the Trojans always try to see things as they really are. And with some things they do get hold of the truth, and with some things they don't. But, where they don't, they won't have substitutes. That's why their world-outlook is so much smaller than ours. It's concentrated in a few certainties which are far ahead of anything we'll arrive at, but when you have these you feel that the rest is a blank and long to be back in the bigger world again, where there's space and variety and perplexity.
Laura Riding
The child begins with crude sex alone. It innocently indulges itself in sensual pleasures. It loves kissing and to be kissed, stroking and to be stroked, fondly contemplating its excretions. The civilized society into which it is born magnifies the importance of these insignificant local sensations, gives them intellectual depth. It creates a handsome receptacle, love, to contain the humours of this unnaturally enlarged instinct.
Riding Laura
When modernist poetry, or what not so long ago passed for modernist poetry, can reach the stage where the following piece by Mr. Ezra Pound is seriously offered as a poem, there is some justification for the plain reader and orthodox critic who shrinks from anything that may be labelled 'modernist' either in terms of condemnation or approbation.... Better he thinks, that ten authentic poets should be left for posterity to discover than one charlatan should be allowed to steal into the Temple of Fame.


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