December 17, 2010

a poet overcome by enthusiasm isn’t a poet

"Too much of anything gets you nowhere. Even logicians warn that someone who tries to prove too much ends up proving nothing at all. We see excess everywhere in life. Excessive or profuse sensation turns to numbness. It produces indolence, inaction, a culture of sluggishness among individuals and whole populations. A poet overcome by enthusiasm, passion, etc., isn’t a poet—I mean he isn’t able to make poetry. Confronted with nature, his mind is swamped imagining the infinite, ideas swarm in his head and he’s unable to separate, select, or grasp any of them; he’s completely incapacitated, in other words; he can’t harvest the fruit of his sensations—he can’t conceptualize and formulate, can’t apply himself and write, can’t theorize or practice."

giacomo leopardi (Recanati, 1798-Naples, 1837), excerpt from an article originally published in the November 2010 issue of Poetry. Translated from the Italian by W.S. Di Piero.

Further reading:

The poetry of pessimism: Giacomo Leopardi (Rice University)

The Solitary Life (The New York Times)

Leopardi: Selected Poems. Translated by Eamon Grennan (Princeton University Press)

Giacomo Leopardi (Wikipedia)