Samuel Taylor Coleridge Questions and Answers

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What is Coleridge’s idea of a good poet?

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This is an often misunderstood notion of Coleridge and Wordsworth.  Their oft-quoted description -- “the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotion, recollected in tranquility” – from the “Preface to Lyrical Ballads” was an attempt to explain the Romantic poetry impetus for their kind of new poetry, as opposed, for example, to Pope’s rational impetus (and he does criticize Pope).  Coleridge is not criticizing all poetry before them (he had great respect for Shakespeare and the Greek poets, for example), calling one kind of poetry “good” and another “bad.”  Because this collection was large and influential, he wanted to introduce Romantic poetry as a new kind, and therefore tried to isolate the differences in the preface to the collection.  He goes on to describe the connection of the poets to the natural world, and to the connection between humanity and natural energies and “seasons.”  He is criticizing, perhaps, those notions that the poetry comes directly from the “adrenaline” (not his word) of the moment, but from the “recollection” back in the studio” of the moment.  As one scholar put it:  “You don’t stop looking at the daffodils to write a poem about seeing daffodils.”

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