From Betjeman to Lewis (never sent)



It seems to me that we have two different approaches to poetry. Both, I hope, have a sense of the sound of words and of metre and stress in common. After that there is no common ground. Your approach is philosophical, or metaphysical or abstract or something I do not understand. Mine is visual. I would cite a bit of your own poetry - a poem called 'The Planets' which opens with the line: "Lady Luna in light canoe". I don't see how anyone who has looked at the moon can think of it as "cruising monthly" in a light canoe. If we are going back to the day of my lack of style, what 'style' us this?

John Betjeman - Unpublished Letter : 13th December 1939
Cited in the 'Daily Telegraph' - 29th July 2006
 Posted by Picasa

3 comments:

Nomad said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nomad said...

Oh, dear, oh dear!
But I do have to agree with Betjeman that Lewis was, on the whole, a pretty lousy poet. (Not that I am any better a one, I hasten to add.) I can usually appreciate what he was trying to accomplish and to express in his poems, but he tried too hard, and got himself in the way, if I can put it like that!

My favourite story I've come across so far on the antipathetic relationship between Lewis (the tutor) and Betjeman (the student) is one I recall reading some years ago (in a book called 'My Oxford, My Cambridge'): Betjeman's lament that CSL had forever ruined 'Kubla Khan' for him by wondering aloud in tutorial whether the 'pants' in the line, 'As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,' were made of wool or fur.

I'm afraid on that one I would have burst out laughing and liked Lewis all the better for it!

Roger R. said...

I'll never read it again without a snigger!