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Updated July 2012

T. E. Lawrence to Ernest Altounyan

7 April 34.

[18 lines omitted] Your poem - essentially it is one, a poetic history - is so long so interwoven, so exhausting, that it demands full attention. Don't be hurt by the word exhausting. I do not mean wearisome, but wearying. It is a strenuous exercise to reach much of it. Like boxing, which is a severe art, whereas golf is easy. You are a muscular poet, and few readers will ever grapple with you competently.

This tax upon your readers is physical. It is possible that intellectually you may make an equal demand. Your metaphysic, your physiology, your philosophy may be as articulated and articulate as [the] forcefulness of your writing. My mind slides over what it fails to understand, and is not troubled at having such depths under its keel. So I do not weary my brain as I read your poems. If your subsequent readers do, why then more of them will fall by the wayside. Be merciful to the reading public! It is not a merit to write, like Blake in his prophetic books, for the very few. The very few are not so useful as the very many. To imagine ourselves - because we are freaks - to be therefore rare and admirable creations is to deceive ourselves. Two-headed chickens and Siamese twins are rare - and unfortunate. Generally they are bottled young. [38 lines omitted]

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Source: DG 794
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 16 January 2006


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