Counting the Beats. Robert Graves’ Poetry of Unrest
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Here is presented an existential view of Graves’ poetic, historical, and critical work, whose coherence is being emphasized. Graves’ poetic outlook is first of all ethical and his aesthetics are subservient to his aim of transforming the emotion into existential thought in order to live on, to probe the experience, and to give it its ontological resonance. The divine capacity is to be found within the individual soul. It is immanent but transcends the phenomenological world. Like Kierkegaard, the poet experiences a feeling of certainty when faith animates him. In the present moment, he gets glimpses of paradise – the plenitude of being. No clipped wings, no well polished discipline or well-behaved guidance. In Kierkegaard’s words, the poet’s sphere is not the universal, or general, but the religious, or individual, sphere – faith, not the concept; self-confidence, not conformity to any over-simplified logic. Graves’ stance is paradoxical throughout: he was not politically involved (except immediately after the war when he said he was a Socialist), but evinced some political ideas in his essays. He was not religious, but poetry took the place of religion for him. He evinced a very original poetic outlook, but kept within the limits of well-accepted prosody. He liked to provoke his audience, but his poetry is never provocative. In other words, it is not easy to situate Graves according to time-honoured categories. He is too much of an individual poet to stand general classification. Yet his poems have a direct appeal to the reading public. He is a poet of unrest. This volume is of interest for scholars and poetry readers who wish to renew their appreciation of poetry and go beyond nowadays critical standards through a careful reading of the very powerful thought of a major poet.