Summer 1940 • Vol. II No. 3 NonfictionJuly 1, 1940 |

On the Semantics of Poetry

Discussions about poetry incur a double danger. There is the danger of spoiling the poem under discussion by over-analysis, or by inopportune or inappropriate analysis; and there is the danger of losing sight of the poem in an effort to settle something about the poet’s life, about the philosophy espoused, about implicit sociological tendencies, or about clinical effects upon the reader. The first danger can be avoided only by the good sense and good taste of the critic. So long as he keeps his undistracted attention upon the poem itself the delicacy and depth of his appreciation will be the main determinants of critical success, and the achievement of these qualities is a matter of gradual, associative education. The second danger, that of sliding imperceptibly from a discussion of the poem into a discussion of something with which the poem has historical or conceptual or functional connections, is more definite and therefore more remediable. While a good deal of such divagati

Already have an account? Login

Join KR for even more to read.

Register for a free account to read five free pieces a month from our current issue and digital archive.
Register for Free and Read This Piece

Or become a subscriber today and get complete, immediate access to our digital archives at every subscription level.

Read More


Your free registration with Kenyon review incudes access to exclusive content, early access to program registration, and more.


With your support, we’ll continue 
to cultivate talent and publish extraordinary literature from diverse voices around the world.