Donald Hall: Do you feel that younger poets in general have repudiated the experimentalism of the early poetry of this century? Few poets now seem to be resisted the way you were resisted, but some older critics like Herbert Read believe that poetry after you has been a regression to outdated modes. When you talked about Milton the second time, you spoke of the function of poetry as a retarder of change, as well as a maker of change, in language.T.S. Eliot: Yes, I don’t think you want a revolution every ten years.Hall: But is it possible to think that there has been a counterrevolution rather than an exploration of new possibilities?Eliot: No, I don’t see anything that looks to me like a counterrevolution. After a period of getting away from the traditional forms, comes a period of curiosity in making new experiments with traditional forms. This can produce very good work if what has happened in between has made a difference: when it’s not merely going back, but taking up an old form, which has been out of use for a time, and making something new with it. That is not counterrevolution. Nor does mere regression deserve the name. There is a tendency in some quarters to revert to Georgian scenery and sentiments; and among the public there are always people who prefer mediocrity, and when they get it, say, “What a relief! Here’s some real poetry again.” And there are also people who like poetry to be modern but for whom the really creative stuff is too strong—they need something diluted.What seems to me the best of what I’ve seen in young poets is not reaction at all. I’m not going to mention any names, for I don’t like to make public judgments about younger poets. The best stuff is a further development of a less revolutionary character than what appeared in earlier years of the century.
- T.S. Eliot, from his Paris Review interview. You can read the whole thing here.