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November 20, 1944

Nov. 20th

Perhaps bodies are not the determining factor in our lives – Wilfred Grenfell, Marie Curie, Pasteur, Mozart, Beethoven, Schiller – all worked under physical handicaps & hunger. It is great comfort to realize this – there is a difference, of course – all of them were working towards some definite goal, in a field that they loved – But as Milton said, “They also serve only who stand & wait.” –

No action today – Rumors again of landings on Luzon – also a rumor of a landing in Mindoro.


We actually know that we have cleaned up Leyte & Samar and have landed on the Northern tip of Cebu. And that we have complete air control of the Visayas & Luzon. Sooner or later it must come.

There are also reports of the relief shipment – supposedly arrived at Kobe Nov. 11th .

I have read two very interesting articles on poetry in old copies of the Atlantic Monthly – one by MacLeish who asks whether there can be any relation between poetry & political revolution and answers that since poetry is a relation of experience and since political revolution is experience, poetry can deal with political revolution – The second article was by Conrad Aiken who deplored the close connection between “poetry” and “sociology.” He feels that poetry can only be the expression of an “I”, that it is intensely individualistic. He decries the irony and satire in modern poetry – actually, what he decries is the attempt to achieve indifference – poetry, he says, can only be subjective –


It is time for another romantic revolution – etc. etc.

But he cites as examples of what is needed, poems by two modern writers – poems which are nearly incomprehensible –

That is just what I think is wrong with modern poetry – The poets are not writing for the people, for a vast audience – They are writing for a small clique – And then the members of this small group interpret these poems to the public through books, articles and reviews – Robinson, Sandburg, Frost and their contemporaries write and are writing for the public – But Auden, Spencer, MacNeice, Stevens, E. E. Cummings & – in many poems T. S. Eliot – all apparently disdain us – Look at Eliot’s “Wasteland,” The same is true of Stein, Wolfe & Joyce in the novel – It is never necessary to be incomprehensible – And I detest poems composed of words put down for their musical effect & not for their meaning –

Beauty equals universal truth plus music (in poetry) I want both a meaning and


aesthetic beauty in poetry – Poetry can be savage, tender or what you will – It can deal with revolution – But it must be comprehensible.

I am reading “What Makes Sammy Run”5 – More of this later –

Today Lt. Shiragi said that we should kill all the dogs in the camp & serve them on the food line – I agree that the dogs should be killed – They are a menace to our health – But I do not relish eating these mangy mongrels – This shows while I may be very hungry, I am not yet starving – Otherwise I would make no such objection.