A Poetry the Quality of Which

By Hugh MacDiarmid


A poetry the quality of which
Is a stand made against intellectual apathy,
Its material… founded on difficult knowledge
… its words coming from a mind
Which has experienced the sifted layers on layers
Of human lives – aware of the innumerable dead
And the innumerable to-be-born  

A speech, a poetry, to bring to bear upon life
The concentrated strength of all our being…  

Poetry of such an integration as cannot be effected
Until a new and conscious organisation of society
Generates a new view
Of the world as a whole…  

A learned poetry wholly free
Of the brutal love of ignorance;
And the poetry of a poet with no use
For any of the simpler forms of personal success.  

Hugh MacDiarmid, from The Kind of Poetry I Want  

Image: stained glass window, Chichester Cathedral, designed by Marc Chagall; photograph by Tereza Stehlíková