Verse, or Prose?
What is the difference between verse and prose in William Faulkner's style? Let's read first the following passages:
From wall to wall, down to the nethermost tower, bells on golden twilight slide lightly down. An hour, another hour is stripped from time, discarded on the ground. He lies and listens, while the bells echo his life away. The ghostly river rises and walks on feet of muffled sound, shakes the darkness where he lies and tosses; then the bells again.
"The Lights and the Sparrows"
The sparrows, beginning to swarm
in the trees in the court-
house yard, never got still until
full dark; the night they turned
on the new lights around the court-
house waked them up and
they were flying around and blun-
dering into the lights
all night long. They kept it up two
or three nights, then one morning
they were all gone.
peace on earth, good will toward
all and not a sparrow can fall
to earth. But what?
Passage (1) might seem to be from the section of Quentin in The Sound and
the Fury who is obsessed with time, but it really comes from a poem in
Vision in Spring with a change of "the ghostly sea" to "the ghostly river":
From wall to wall, down to the nethermost tower,
Bells on golden wings slide lightly down.
An hour, another hour
Is stripped from time, discarded on the ground.
He lies and listens, while the bells
Passage (2) is a ballad-like poem with 4 and 3 feet alternately. It
may be also said to be a sonnet, for it has 14 lines. As for the contents,
it expresses anger against the confusion in nature with an allusion to the
Bible, and keeps itself on an intellectual level. The slow way of
description shows that the anger, if any, is very calm, and it may indicate
an acceptance that human good will is simultaneously bad will and that no
human being will change.
The rhyme scheme collapses in two places. Line 10 should have not 7 but 6 syllables, though the line corresponds to the fact that the sparrows disappear. The last line has only 4 syllables, which suggests that the silence is caused by anger against human beings.
But the "poem" of passage (2) is actually composed of some sentences from the Jason Section in The Sound and the Fury. No Jason will write a poem; it is made up from the underlined parts of the following passages:
|The swallows had begun, and I could hear the sparrows beginning to swarm in the trees in the courthouse yard. (S&F 155)|
|Sometimes the sparrows never got still until full dark. The night they turned on the new lights around the courthouse it waked them up and they were flying around and blundering into the lights all night long. They kept it up two or three nights, then one morning they were all gone. Then after about two months they all came back again. (S&F 157-58)|
|The sun was down beyond the Methodist church now, and the pigeons were flying back and forth around the steeple, ...Talking about peace on earth good will toward all and not a sparrow can fall to earth. But what does he [Parson Walthall] care how thick they get, he hasn't got anything to do: what does he care what time it is. (S&F 154)|
These passages describe what Jason sees when he goes home from the town,
and they reveal his ambivalence toward home.
As these two quotations suggest that in The Sound and the Fury there is no rigid distinction between verse and prose, this article will examine its style and will show how Faulkner achieves a stylistic level where verse and prose are one.
The Modernism of the Poets
The 20th century is said to be an age of prose; in its beginning, because of the change of literary sensibility, verse was considered out of date and clumsy for the tempo and style of common life. What Edmund Wilson said was already accepted widely:
|...the technique of prose is inevitably tending more and more to take over the material which had formerly provided by the subjects for compositions in verse.... (Wilson 21)|
Wilson, who stands for verse, after surveying the history of verse,
enlarges the definition of verse, and insists that the modern novels are
also "poetry": whatever "poetry" is, "prose" includes what has been
poetry's themes, motifs, and techniques. And the novel in prose, which
etymologically means "bare word," that is, words without music, is the most
proper genre for life in 20th century.
The poets at the beginning of the 20th century resist this tendency. Their poetry is the renovation of traditional concepts and rules; it is written in prosaic verse, verse without rhyme, that is, "free verse." Now not verse but poetry is paired with prose. The poets make many poetical experiments, and this movement has come to be called "modernism."
Not all poems are written in free verse. Poetry, the leading journal of the Chicago Renaissance, introduces many rhymed poems, but, in 1918, "Free verse is now accepted in good society, where rhymed verse is even considered a little shabby and old fashioned" (Henderson 339). The old poetic form is considered too regular to express the sense of modern life.
What is really the difference between a poem and a novel? Traditionally speaking, stories and characters do not explain and the epic has stories, narratives, and characters. The real difference has been whether the work is written in verse or not. Modern poetry is now bringing the prosaic style into itself. Now the difference should be that poetry gives a shock of recognition by words, totally different from the novel which leaves the last judgement to the reader. Poetry also runs with lines, not with paragraphs, and it is rather short, except for some longer poems, the Cantos, Paterson. No words can be replaced with another ones in poetry.
Fulfilling these standards in modern poetry, modern poets take stands and make experiments; Ezra Pound tries to defend poetry as a genre, not imagism or free verse. "I desire also to resurrect the art of lyric, I mean words to be sung, for Yeats' only wail and submit to keening and chaunting (with au) and Swinburne's only rhapsodify. And with a few exceptions (a few in Browning) there is scarcely anything since the time of Waller and Campion. AND a mere imitation of them won't do" (Pound, Letters 128).
Modernism is, however, full of contradictions. There is no "free verse," as "verse" is not at all free from rhyme. Many poets proceed from one genre to another, trying to destroy the established genre from inside and outside. For example, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, Ezra Pound, and T.S.Eliot write not only poetry but also novels, and/or drama. Their conflict lies in their sense of mission as a poet to save human beings, even though their readers may be few.
Pound knows that modernism transcends its age:
For three years, out of key with his time,
He strove to resuscitate the dead art
Of poetry; to maintain "the sublime"
In the old sense. Wrong from the start---
His true Penelope was Flaubert,
Here Pound characterizes his efforts as "out of key," though he never
escapes from the field of poetry, and leaving London through Paris to
Italy, he never quits writing poetry.
We can also see that the tradition of the novel now influences the poets. Flaubert, as well as Henry James, is in their minds when they compose poetry.
Hatred against the modernist movement, however, was very strong among the ordinary readers and traditional poets. One comment in 1928 says that: "the sophistications of advanced modern poetry seem only to make the breach wider. Such poetry seems to say: 'Keep out. This is a private performance'" (Riding 9).
Faulkner as an Old-Fashioned Poet
William Faulkner also shares the hatred against the modernist
movement. He is an anti-modernist by nature (Blotner, "Introduction" 137).
The following interpretation by Sensibar thus seems mistaken; "In terms of
the larger picture, Faulkner's verse illuminates the important relation of
late nineteenth-century and early modernist poetry to the aesthetics of the
later modernist fiction. These poems facilitate our understanding of the
process by which, to paraphrase Pound, a generation of American writers
made it "new"; and this bibliography serves ... to trace the genealogy of
modernist poetics" (Sensibar xiii).
|I am a failed poet. Maybe every novelist wants to write poetry first, finds he can't and then tries the short story which is the most demanding form after poetry. And failing again at that, only then does he take up novel writing. (LG 238)|
These words suggest not only Faulkner's progress towards The Sound and the
Fury, but also imply a strong sense of differences and values among
literary genres. Faulkner didn't consider his high appreciation of poetry
as out-of-date, as Pound did, and he didn't stick to poetry, as Pound did.
Almost all of his poems are set in rhyme and in traditional forms.
They have four, six, eight-line stanzas, and have rhyme schemes like abab
("Clair de Lune" EPAP 58), aaab ("Streets" EPAP 59), aabb ("A Clymene" EPAP 61), ababcc ("A Study" EPAP 62-63), and abababab ("Alma Mater" EPAP 64).
Let us go, then; you and I, while evening grows
And a delicate violet thins the rose
That stains the sky;
We will go alone there, you and I,
And watch the trees step naked from the shadow
Like women shrugging upward from their gowns. (ViS 38)
Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
Rather, Faulkner regards poetry as a private means of communication with
women and a precious dedication to women. For example, even in youth he
showed his own sketches, stories, and poems to Myrtle Ramey, one of his
favorite classmates on September, 1906 (Blotner, "Introduction" 131), and
he shared his poems with Estelle Oldham in 1911 (FAB 142). The Marble Faun
is dedicated to his mother; Myrtle Ramey is also given one of the copies
and twelve signed manuscripts of poems (Blotner, "Introduction" 135).
Helen: A Courtship, as its poems are almost all set in four lines a stanza,
and/or sonnets, is dedicated a sweetheart in New Orleans.
These facts articulate Faulkner's belief that poetry pushes him toward women, any women he likes, and that the relationship becomes deeper by poetry, but it's totally wrong. Not the poem itself, but reading a poem, dedicating a poem, to women, as he himself mentions he usually tries, (EPAP 115) deepens his relationship with women. This is the misuse and misfortune of poetry; or dare Faulkner say it's an honor?
It is well known that Faulkner behaved as a knight to all women (Wasson 64). As he dedicates his poems to women, he sings about women in his poems, too. One contemporary poet, Wallace Stevens, may hint at Faulkner's poetics when he says that: "A poet looks at the world somewhat as a man looks at a woman" (Stevens 164). He actually confesses his trick with poetry over women in an essay:
|"I read and employed verse, firstly, for the purpose of furthering various philanderings in which I was engaged, secondly, to complete a youthful gesture I was then making, of being 'different' in a small town. Later my interest in fornication waning, I turned inevitably to verse, finding therein an emotional counterpart far more satisfactory for two reasons: (1) No partner was required (2)It was so much simpler just to close a book, and take a walk." (EPAP 115)|
Poetry keeps his pride high, and it leads him toward women.
Women and Trees in Faulkner's Poems
Faulkner's celebration of female beauty and youth is traditionally American, as can be seen in E.A.Poe's poetry. It makes women everlasting in letters, while it hides the author's desire to possess women. He hates for women to escape. A special characteristic of his poetry is that he regards women as trees, which is already shown in the quotation (10), and of course they should be young and beautiful. We can give many other examples of women as trees:
Why do you shiver there
Between the white river and road?
You are not cold,
With the sun light dreaming about you;
And yet you lift your pliant supplicating arms as though
To draw clouds from the sky to hide your slenderness.
You are a young girl
Here it is a metaphor, and the following is a simile:
|First Figure: She [Marietta] is like a slender birch tree stripped by a storm, she is a birch tree shivering at dawn upon a dim wood; no she is like a young poplar between a white river and a road. (Marionettes 43-44)|
|The next quotation from The Marble Faun also hints at the intimate relationship between trees and women in Faulkner's poetics: (15)|
The poplar trees sway to and fro
That through this gray old garden go
Like slender girls with nodding heads,
Whispering above the beds
Of tall tufted hollyhocks,
Of purple asters and of phlox;
("Prologue," The Marble Faun 3)
Faulkner's poetic attitude is totally anti-modernist. Without mentioning
their love affairs in biographies, the modernist poets, T.S.Eliot, Ezra
Pound, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, never celebrate the beauty
of young women directly and genuinely. They jeer at young women, beautiful
women, or vice versa. And the images of women are not limited to young
ladies; they sing of older women too.
From Verse to The Sound and the Fury
As many critics point out, no one would read Faulkner's poems if he
were not a master of novels. How did he proceed from poetry to the novel,
from verse to prose, especially to his masterpiece, The Sound and the Fury?
|Q: Why did you quit poetry? Faulkner: When I found my poetry not good, I changed my medium. At 21 I thought my poetry very good. I continued to write it when 22 but at 23 I quit it. I found my best medium to be fiction. My prose is really poetry. (LG 56)|
His answer seems relevant, with an abruptly and irrelevantly added
declaration that: "My prose is really poetry," which reminds us of two of
Flaubert's famous letters to Louise Colet, dated on July 27, 1852, and on
March 27, 1853:
The books I most long to write are precisely those for which I am least
endowed. Bovary, in this sense, is an unprecedented tour de force (a fact
of which I alone shall ever be aware): its subject, characters, effects,
etc.--- all are alien to me. It should make it possible for me to take a
great step forward later. Art is not interested in the personality of the
artist. So much the worse for him if he doesn't like red or green or
yellow: all colors are beautiful, and his task is to use them....(Flaubert 140)
|It is perhaps absurd to want to give prose the rhythm of verse (keeping it distinctively prose, however) and to write of ordinary life as one writes history or epic (but without falsifying the subject). I often wonder about this. But on the other hand, it is perhaps a great experiment, and very original, too. I know where I fail. (Ah! if only I were fifteen!) No matter: I shall always be given some credit for my stubbornness. And then who can tell? Some day I may find a good motif, an air completely suited to my voice, neither high nor too low. In any case I shall have lived nobly and often delightfully. (Flaubert 148)|
It is fascinating and puzzling to see that Flaubert's comments on Madame
Bovary correspond with Faulkner's comments on The Sound and the Fury. In
these letters Flaubert hints at the effort "to give prose the rhythm of
verse," while feeling it absurd and failing. As Wilson points out,
"Flaubert is the first great writer in prose deliberately to try to take
over for the treatment of ambitious subjects the delicacy, the precision
and the intensity that have hitherto been identified with verse" (Wilson
23-24). He finally finishes Madame Bovary in 1856, when verse was still
regarded highly. On the other hand, we are puzzled because Faulkner makes
the anachronistic comment of "My prose is really poetry" after World War II
when all the society is totally prosaic.
As Bleikasten points out, The Sound and the Fury is "an unpredictable adventure" (Bleikasten 5). It is true that the prose, poems, and novels written before it may imply some aspects and points later developed in it, but what we find there is "all the inexplicable distance from talent to genius" (Bleikasten 5).
Critics have tried to explain the causes that push him jump into maturity. For example, they point to the discovery of locality through his meetings with Sherwood Anderson, the financial necessities for marriage with Estelle, his indifference to the publishers, and his concentration on writing. Here I would like to add what I consider the most important causes: one was that he discovers everything while he is writing The Sound and the Fury, and the other is Faulkner's endurance as an author and a human being.
Writing is adventure and discovery; actually, we know many discoveries Faulkner made while he was writing The Sound and the Fury. He tells us, for example, that he didn't know Benjy was an "idiot" when he started: " 'Course, we didn't know at that time that one was an idiot" (FU 31).
As for the original image that pushed Faulkner to write The Sound and the Fury, his words are not consistent. In September, 1955, he says, "It started out as a short story about two children being sent out to play in the yard during their grandmother's funeral. Only one of the little girls was big enough to climb a tree to look in the window to see what was going on" (LG 222), but he says on February 20, 1957, "It's more an image, a very moving image to me was of the children, ... but they were three boys, one was a girl and the girl was the only one that was brave enough to climb that tree to look in the forbidden window to see what was going on (FU 31-32). This inconsistency is probably the result of his discovery in writing.
The other cause which I believe brings Faulkner to The Sound and the Fury is his endurance as an author and a human being, his prolonged attachment, or insistent desire. He never gives up anybody he wants; for example, he never gives up Estelle even after she married another man, and he sent a manually bundled copy of Vision in Spring as an evidence of his love (Sensibar xxv). Or one famous episode is that Faulkner kept a paper napkin from Central Station for several months with which Meta Carpenter had wiped her lips when she saw him off in Los Angeles (Wilde 88-89, 126).
As the following is a story Faulkner told to Meta, it may be exaggerated, but it hints that his wife also felt his attachment and strong desire:
|"We were riding along," Bill said. "and she [Estelle] began inveighing against you [Meta]. I said, 'Estelle, she's getting married ... it's all over with us,' and Estelle said, "But that doesn't mean you've given her up, or that you don't still want her.' --- and then she tossed an expensive compact out of the window. I lost my temper--- the damned thing had cost twenty five dollars. Did she think I was writing movies in Hollywood so that she could cut expensive dresses into ribbons and fling away expensive compacts? Before I knew what was happening, she had raked her fingernails down my face. I was driving. She could have killed us both."... "I think she wanted to kill me, if not herself." (Wilde 194)|
This attachment is evident not only in the case of Meta Carpenter, and it
helps Faulkner to finish any novel. Another episode shows another aspect
of the attachment. Faulkner brought a golf bag to New York with the
manuscript of The Sound and the Fury (Wasson 86), not because he was going
to play golf, but because it would stress his difference from New Yorkers,
and it would help him concentrate on writing The Sound and the Fury, which begins with a golf scene.
Faulkner also shows his attachment to his favorite books: (20)
Q: How about poetry? Do you read much poetry?
Faulkner: Yes. But no new poets. I have my old friends which I still read over. Keats, Shelley, Byron, the Elizabethans, Marlowe, Thomas Campion; the French poets, Verlaine and Laforgue. (LG 217)
Not to read new books, new poets, but to attach himself to several
favorite poets, this reflects his desire to go deeper, not wider, in a
place. He has favorite novelists, too, but he suggests that his novel
comes from his failure in writing poetry:
Faulkner:....I think that every novelist is a failed poet. I think he tries
to write poetry first, then finds he can't. Then he tries the short story,
which is the most demanding form after poetry. And failing at that, only
then does he take up novel-writing.
Q: Do you have any writer in mind when you say this?
Faulkner (looking at the interviewer): I'm a failed poet. I tried writing poetry when I was a young man, but soon found I wasn't a poet. So I turned to the novel. (LG 217)
What on the Earth creates a new thing? No imagination can create, as
Burke says (Burke 58); imagination can just change the display of
impressions, and it never brings authors to a new stage. Real creation
comes after the long maintenance of strong will and deep passion. It may
be true that nothing is new under the sun from the viewpoint of human
history, but men are born new, and they are born with new wills and
passions, and they create new masterpieces. Faulkner kept his will and
passion in writing. He continued writing poems for ten years, and no
poetic masterpieces were born; but this training and attachment to the same
materials brought him to The Sound and the Fury at last. Honnighausen
shares this judgment: "Yet it seems safe to say that without the strange
insistent experiments in the early work, one of the greatest novels in
American literature could not have been written" (Hönnighausen 167).
Now we can safely say that the repeated, or rather haunted image of a young beautiful woman as a tree finally evolves into the character of a young beautiful woman named Caddy, the scene of Caddy in the tree, and Caddy as the smell of a tree. In other words, The Sound and the Fury is a "Portrait of a Lady" that maintains his poetic nature. As Flaubert is said to tell that: "I am Madame Bovary," Faulkner could say "I am Caddy." The way which lead the author to The Sound and the Fury was the poetic sense of celebrating a young beautiful woman in prose similar to verse.
Caddy is for him the most loving, dearest girl; he repeats that she is "a beautiful and tragic little girl" (S&F 228), "To me she was the beautiful one, she was my heart's darling. That's what I wrote the book about and I used the tools which seemed to me the proper tools to try to tell, try to draw the picture of Caddy" (S&F 236), "To me she (=Caddy) is my heart's darling" (FU 6).
As Caddy is the center of Faulkner's poetic imagination, The Sound and the Fury is a poetic work; the style in the Benjy section is a concise form of verse in the sense that any change of a word would totally change The Sound and the Fury into a different novel. The Quentin section is also a kind of verse, as many sentences are disconnected, jump out of context, and are full of illogical words. Jason's section is closest to prose, but poetic elements are latent as passage (2) suggests. The last section is a description full of the author's poetic talent.
The Poetic Elements in The Sound and the Fury
The following is the opening sentence of The Sound and the Fury:
|Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting. (S&F 3)|
What would happen to the novel if the following were the first sentence?
|I could see them hitting, through the fence, between the curling flower spaces.|
The contents of each sentence are the same, but the sense, effects and
impressions are totally different; as passage (23) presents the narrator as
"I" from the first word, it gives a misdirection as to the unconsciousness
of Benjy. He reacts against and/ or for the atmosphere and the other
characters, and he never takes the initiative; he is an idiot. That's why
the first sentence should never start with the word "I" which would suggest
the initiative and lead to a subjective and independent narrator.
The style in the Quentin section inherits Faulkner's earlier poetic
style; for example, it shares a keen sense to butterflies and light, and
the color "gray" frequently used in The Marble Faun darkens the scenes of
his remembering Caddy. The "shadow" repeatedly used in Vision in Spring is
also used in the scenes of obsession with death.
As for the style in the Jason section, passage (2) may suggest the birth of new poems in Faulkner. When he was asked whom he hated most among his characters, Faulkner answered "Jason" (LG 225). But to defend Jason, we can say that Faulkner shows a very stingy sense of money, like Jason, in his journey to Europe (Letters 28, 29). It may be because he was a poor traveller, but also he had to bring his financial ability into full play as a master of the house.
The first part of the author's section is as follows:
|The day dawned bleak and chill, a moving wall of gray light out of the northeast which, instead of dissolving into moisture, seemed to disintegrate into minute and venomous particles, like dust that, when Dilsey opened the door of the cabin and emerged, needled laterally into her flesh, precipitating not so much a moisture as a substance partaking of the quality of thin, not quite congealed oil. (S&F 165)|
We cannot say that this is not the style for a novel, but those underlined
parts surprise us as they are metaphors, similes, and figurative
expressions. The metaphor "wall" corresponds with the following quotation:
It is dark says Pierrot, now that night has come
Rising like an iron wall about me, I am dumb;
Moreover, the usage of the word "gray light" shows that the poetic sense in
Faulkner is activated here.
These examples of poetic style in The Sound and the Fury do not disprove that it is a novel; truly it is a genuine novel which is written in paragraphs in most parts, and leaves the guesses and judgments to the reader as novels do. Still it is full of poetic sense, and is written in lines in some parts like a poem, and preserves many elements of the young Faulkner's poems.
Caddy and Faulkner after The Sound and the Fury
The Sound and the Fury did not give Faulkner a sense of completion. He could not say that it was finished, and he adds "an Appendix" in the fall of 1945 for the Viking edition Portable Faulkner, about twenty years after he first published The Sound and the Fury:
|"Yes. ... I wrote the Benjy part first. That wasn't good enough so I wrote the Quentin part. That still wasn't good enough. I let Jason try it. That still wasn't enough. I let Faulkner try it and that still wasn't enough, and so about twenty years afterward I wrote an appendix still trying to make that book--- match the dream." (FU 84)|
In another place he confesses his prolonged uneasiness with Caddy:
|I saw that I had not told the story that time. I tried to tell it again, the same story through the eyes of another brother. That was still not it. I told it for the third time through the eyes of the third brother. That was still not it. I tried to gather the pieces together and fill in the gaps by making myself the spokesman. It was still not complete, not until 15 years after the book was published when I wrote as an appendix to another book the final effort to get the story told and off my mind, so that I myself could have some peace from it. (LG 245)|
What is "the dream" in quotation (26)? or what is "the story" in quotation
(27)? Of course it is Caddy and her story. Faulkner does not think he has
completed her story; he has a lot left to write about Caddy. And yet she
never speaks out for herself. We are left with many questions: what she
thought about the destiny of the Compson family, why she went to Germany,
where she lives now....
When he was asked: "is there any particular reason why you didn't have a section with--- giving her [Caddy's] views or impressions of what went on?" Faulkner answered: "because Caddy was still to me too beautiful and too moving to reduce her to telling what was going on, that it would be more passionate to see her through somebody else's eyes, I thought. And that failed and I tried myself--- the fourth section--- to tell what happened, and I still failed" (FU 1). That is, he could not let Caddy tell her own story because he is an old-fashioned poet who believes a beautiful young woman should not speak out, but should be celebrated by others.
Even after Faulkner published The Sound and the Fury, he wrote some poems, and published collections of poetry, but he never changes his old thought and attitude toward poets and poetry. Though they are all written in the 1920s, Faulkner may have even been satisfied with Salmagundi, 1932, a book of poems in a box, printed in two colors, for he gave up printing The Sound and the Fury in colors. A Green Bough (1933) still lingers in the mood of the past, and no one would guess otherwise than that Faulkner is the author. Actually it was prepared under the title of "A Greening Bough" in 1925 (Bleikasten 207).
Faulkner still keeps the habit of making use of poetry in his relationships with women, and he gives his collections of poetry to them. He buys a copy of A Green Bough at a bookshop in Los Angeles and gives it to Meta Carpenter (Wilde 15). He gives his own copy of A Green Bough to Joane Williams, whom he meets in 1949.
On the other hand, the poets of the time are still in the modernist movement; for example, in 1933, Ezra Pound published "Canto 34" in Poetry, which is made of fragments, and introduces multiple viewpoints, trying to erase the existence of the narrator himself.
We can safely say that Faulkner stands in a sphere totally different from the modernist poets, and from there he continues to respect poetry and poets. For example, he thinks of T.S. Eliot when he writes Requiem for a Nun in 1951 (Letters 313). And in the "Address upon Receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature," he also shows that he still respects only the poet.
|I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: ... I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal not because he alone among creature has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail." (Meriwether, Essays Speeches and Public Letters by William Faulkner> 120)|
Here Faulkner mentions "the poet" before "the writer," and then he ignores
the latter when he says "the poet's voice need not merely be the record of
man, ..." We hastily add, however, that he does not share with the
modernist poets any self-enlarging arrogance, megalomaniac sense of mission
to save the world, or concept of literature as the supreme means. Perhaps
it's because he is very modest.
William Faulkner's respect for and attachment to the poetry is shared by some critics. After he gets a telephone call from somebody who said his aunt keeps a copy of poems dedicated by Faulkner, Blotner doesn't regard the call as a joke, and insists that "perhaps in southernmost Louisiana, there exists a cache of Faulkner poems--- a further testimonial of William Faulkner's feeling for women (Blotner, "William Faulkner" 19).
Surely we cannot deny the possibility of finding Faulkner's unpublished poems. We know that his unpublished poems exist: Faulkner gave a lot of poems and sketches to Meta Carpenter, and she donated them to a library (Wilde 75-76). They will not be published until 2039. They may not change the figure of Faulkner as a failed poet.
Allison, Alexander W., et al. ed. The Norton Anthology of Poetry. 3rd
edition. New York: W. W. Norton, 1983. (=NAP)
Bleikasten, Andre. The Most Splendid Failure: Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1976.
Blotner, Joseph. "Introduction." William Faulkner. Helen: a Courtship and Mississippi Poems. Oxford, MS: Tulane U & Yoknapatawpha P, 1981: 131-48.
-----. "William Faulkner: Life and Art." Eds. Fowler, Doreen and Ann J.Abadie. Faulkner and Women: Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha, 1985. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1986: 3-20.
-----. Faulkner: A Biography. New York: Random House, 1974. (=FAB)
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