On Poetry and Culture Shock

A pyramidal theory of art.

I created this theory of art to tease the Elusive Poet; I don’t remember well his reaction, but I think he agreed. By the way, if you haven’t followed this blog from the beginning, the Elusive Poet is a friend of mine who writes, but doesn’t let anyone see his work, hence the nick.

So, the Pyramid Theory. Imagine a three-sided pyramid:
Side 1 is Unoriginality, terseness, boredom, flatness. “Writing degree zero”. Journalism, technical writing, the unliterary.
Side 2 is Sentimentality, the cheesy.
Side 3 is Pretentiousness, the ornate, innovation.
En español es más sencillo: plano, cursi o pretencioso.

Art is like a ball in an impossible equilibrium at the top of the pyramid; we may disagree about where exactly a work stands (for example, I will forever defend that Bécquer's poetry is always too sentimental and often too pretentious), but the point is not to grade individual works. Art is not a multiple choice test. The purpose of the pyramid is the artist’s self-evaluation: look at whatever you create, and you’ll see how anything that you’d like to improve falls into any of those three faults. It is the simplest measure I’ve found to tell myself whether something must be destroyed or not.

Generally, I have to fight more with pretentiousness in poetry and sentimentality in prose. Unoriginality takes care of itself; trying to be deliberately original makes me pretentious.

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