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November 28, 2007
The analogy was that of the catalyst. When the two gases previously mentioned [oxygen and sulphur dioxide] are mixed in the presence of a filament of platinum, they form sulphurous acid. This combination takes place only if the platinum is present; nevertheless the newly formed acid contains no trace of platinum, and the platinum itself is apparently unaffected: it has remained inert, neutral and unchanged. The mind of the poet is like that shred of platinum. It may partly or exclusively operate upon the experience of the man himself; but, the more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind which creates; the more perfectly will the mind digest and transmute the passions which are its material.
- T.S. Eliot, from ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’
- Jeannette Winterson, in a book club discussion of her novel ‘Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit’. Guardian Review 10/11/07
You write from a wound… There’s a place in you that won’t heal.
Well, there are a couple of quotes that got me thinkin'. Yeah, I know we were supposed to find like four or whatever, but I didn't come across any others I approved of. Plus, these two go together, after a fashion.
If it were up to me, I'd choose to be a shard of platinum. Nobody wants to be walking around with great fat wounds smacked everywhere!
Being, as I am, human, however; and far from attaining 'perfect artist' status... I find the latter quote provides a more accessible idea of how one can begin to write. If unpleasant. Perhaps Eliot's ideal is something to aspire to. It's a daunting prospect. I'm not sure it's entirely possible.