• Desmond King-Hele


Poets draw on a limited stock of words familiar and unfamiliar — Shakespeare’s stock was about 15,000 words. If we could anatomize the poet’s memories, we might find these words stored in various guises, some singly, some linked in phrases subconsciously recorded from previous reading or listening, all awaiting a trigger from an external source to propel them into a poem. In one sense, poets are often ‘original’: a poem is often provoked by an event, and events are often original, so rich is human and natural life. In another sense, poets are nearly always doomed to be unoriginal, merely rearranging existing words to express ideas that are rarely new. Yet a truly creative rearrangement is possible and can generate a new world-view, or at least a fresh perspective.


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    For the origins of the quotations in this paragraph, see W. J. Bate, The Burden of the Past and the English Poet (Chatto & Windus, 1971) p. 3;Google Scholar
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© Desmond King-Hele 1986

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  • Desmond King-Hele

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