Cultural Caviar

Myth of the Effeminate Poet

February 03, 2013

Always conservative, after the war Ezra was enamored of soil, beauty, and tradition: in other words, fascism. He was revolted at WWI’s cultural carnage and sought the best way of preserving what remained. During WWII he made several radio broadcasts for Italy in a vain attempt to forestall another disaster, though he never technically betrayed the United States.

When hostilities abated he surrendered and was literally put in a cage outside Rome, then figuratively put into one inside America. After serving his time he sailed away to Europe’s ruins. His final gesture on the way out was a fascist salute to the Statue of Liberty. Right or wrong, that’s a man.

T. S. Eliot was another staunch fellow, but none would know it to look at him. He had nerve and integrity that few can match. When JFK called on him to deliver the Inaugural Poem, the converted Anglo-Catholic and royalist Eliot spat in his eye (poetically speaking). Johnny settled for Robert Frost instead.

Some episodes of the “effete” Eliot’s romantic derring-do: enticing an older woman, committing her to an asylum, carousing with London pals for another decade, at 68 marrying a girl half his age, then managing to keep that marriage secret from the world. Hardly the exploits of a limp esthete.

In addition were Coleridge, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Yeats, and Mallarme, who all married and had healthy hetero home lives. (Granted, Mallarme was a little hyper-hetero.) Even Pushkin was shot over a woman—his twenty-ninth such duel.

For centuries poets led existences only the most debauched dilettantes today can match. These were masculine lives other men only wished they could lead.

Generations of boys were raised on such tales whose moral was that love of the female form is noble and its favors obtainable when beautifully expressed. Even licentiousness could be partially redeemed by creating something fine by its exercise.

Lamentably, Hollywood has relentlessly invaded the province of poets and sought to invalidate it. By their telling, such types are often infantile, universally timid, and almost always homosexual (or worse). As with everything that Hollywood claims, it’s the exact opposite of the truth.

Poetry is inherently emotional, and emotions are powerful things. Over generations poetic works have roused the people to action. In the capable hands of healthy and sound individuals such a tool endangers the powers that be. How best to defuse this threat? Inculcate in the public mind that only the weak, maladjusted, and unstable practice its art, consequently dissuading the best men from learning its use.

Were a few famous scribes inclined toward deviant behavior? Undoubtedly, just as in every other endeavor. But by and large, composers of verse were historically more virile, obsessively passionate, and hopelessly infatuated with the fairer sex. This is often the foremost reason why these gifted personages ever became poets.

 

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