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Escape and Pursuit: Poet Laureate Robert Penn Warren and His Poems

 Influenced by the changes of the times, the economic take-off, and the new poetry movement, the American poetry world in the 20th century shined brightly. As an outstanding representative of this period, the poetry of Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989) is unique with its rich language, superb imagination, varied styles, and writing in line with the spirit of the times. His poems sometimes have epic grandeur, sometimes parody witty, heavy and light, grand and delicate, full of rational philosophy and moral concern, bringing readers an unforgettable experience.


From 1922 to 1989, Warren published more than 500 poems and published 19 collections of poetry ranging from Thirty-Six Poems to New Poems and Selected Poems: 1923-1985. Among them, "Promise: Poems 1954-1956" and "This Time and Then: Poems 1976-1978" made him a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. In addition, Warren has won the Shelley Memorial Award for poetry, the Sidney Hillman Award, the Edna St. Vincent Milley Award, the National Book Award, the Bollingen Award for Poetry, the Emerson-Thoreau Award In 1986, he was awarded the title of the first American Poet Laureate. Warren's poetry was not only officially recognized, but also loved by the people like Frost's poetry. Therefore, he had many studies and enthusiasts before his death. After his death, a new wave of Warren research has been launched in the United States. , the results are endless. Warren's poetry introduced China mainly since it became the first poet laureate in the United States. Mr. Zhou Weichi's 2003 "Warren Poems" can be regarded as an excellent representative.



 

"Escape and pursuit" are the key words that accompany Warren and his poetry, and serve as a unique appreciative perspective. "Escape and pursuit" seem to be opposites, but in fact complement each other. As a portrait of a life experience, it outlines the ups and downs of Warren's life trajectory. As a theme, it exists widely in world literature (such as "Exodus", "Peach Blossom Land", "Utopia", "The Adventures of Augie March", etc.), and it is a common orientation existing in the collective unconscious of human beings. An important motif in literature, American literature is no exception, and Warren's poetry is the culmination of a variety of "flight and seek" themes. "Escape and Pursuit" is a window to observe the intertextuality and mutual reflection between Warren's life trajectory and poetry creation.




Warren was born on April 24, 1905 in the small town of Guthrie, Todd County, Kentucky, USA. The mother of a middle school teacher and the father who loved literature and wrote poetry when he was young, have experienced the Civil War, love to recite poetry and tell historical stories. Grandpa who listened to Warren Jr. The influence of this family atmosphere, the shelves full of books, and the tutoring of the Bible all gave him a good enlightenment. In his childhood, in addition to reading a lot of books, Warren also liked to roam in his grandfather's empty tobacco plantation and the surrounding forests and mountains. He left a deep imprint on it and became an important source of his literary inspiration in the future. This also explains that his poems with the theme of "Escape and Pursuit" are often full of yearning for the peaceful pastoral, beautiful nature, golden past and happy childhood": In the pine forest we used to run, shout / overflow Joy and innocence, and to this day / Our voices still echo in the high ground / The pristine green that envelopes us. / / We too have heard the hounds bell in the wind in the cold night. /(What were you chasing then?) The maple tree/Sowing pollen in the sun, so silent.//Time is like an unraveled thread,/The land and our happiness flow in the four seasons;/ Our shadow is like guilt, always with us..." ("Midnight Monologue"). However, Warren's life has not been smooth sailing. In fact, he experienced three life changes, all of which directly or indirectly influenced the creation of his poetry.


In 1920, at the age of 15, Warren experienced the first accident in his life-his left eye was accidentally hit with a stone by his younger brother and blinded, which not only ruined his dream of becoming a naval officer (he had just been admitted to the U.S. Navy) College), and left him with a lifelong anxiety about losing his other eye. This anxiety plays a subtle role in the expression and structure of his poetry, which is full of "escape and pursuit" tension. The repeated depiction of the sharp gaze of the core image of "escape and pursuit" in his poems, "eagle", is also not unrelated to this experience. For example, "The eagle trembles high in the sky, he trembles / To take his place in the dazzling wind, with reference to the / firmament, he trembles and the world is a metaphor, his eyes / look, white, the flickering of the rabbit's tail. , the follies of the voles". Another example is the poem "Watershed": "From this height, everything is flowing. / The land where the rivers divide, the water overflows / The land of the east and the west, there is no memory... / The morning mist on the land Rolled up/Like the smoke on the ridge of the world." No doubt, the eagle's all-seeing gaze is the object of great admiration for the poet. This misfortune also accidentally opened his studies in various colleges such as Vanderbilt University, and led him to finally devote himself to literature and education.



 

In Warren's study experience, the most influential thing for him was his study life at Vanderbilt University, where he embarked on a literary creative journey. Warren entered Vanderbilt University at the age of 16, majoring in chemical engineering, but because he resented his rote teaching methods and was inspired by the poetry frenzy that pervaded the university at the time, he resolutely gave up and joined Yulan. The "escapers" led by Sejm gradually revealed extraordinary literary talents, and were called "the most talented and gifted one among them" by Tet. Warren graduated summa cum laude from Vanderbilt University in 1925, a master's degree from the University of California in 1927, graduate studies at Yale University from 1927 to 1928, and a Rhodes Visiting Scholar in 1928 Study at Oxford University. During his time at Oxford University, he wrote an essay for the collection of essays "I'm Going to Take My Stand: The South and the Agricultural Tradition", expressing his physiocratic standpoint and thinking about the old South, which became the "escape" that his poetry focused on. an important part of the theme. For example, "Old Kentucky Childhood": "When I was a little boy I saw the world I was in. / I saw it for what it was." He sighed, "But as I grew up, the past and the future became On me..." He sighed. Grandpa's words in the poem, "Love/your wife, love your children, keep your promises, and/if need be, die bravely for people to die for" lingered in his mind. Warren's poems illustrate that the industrial civilization represented by the North is indeed more advanced than the agricultural civilization of the South in terms of science and technology, material production, etc., but industrialization has also brought problems such as material supremacy, moral decline, emotional indifference, and human beings. However, the traditional values ​​of the South, the rural lifestyle and the closeness of people in rural towns obviously have irreplaceable values ​​in maintaining or reshaping the integrity of people and the harmony of society.



 

In 1929, 24-year-old Warren secretly married Emma Brescia. The two returned to the United States together after their marriage, and Warren became a college lecturer at Southwestern College in Tennessee. In a seemingly smooth life, Warren experienced the second change in his life in the following year (1931)-first his mother died in October, followed by his father's bankruptcy. The poem "Red-Tailed Eagle and the Fire of Boyhood" has an autobiographical description: "The years pass like a dream, just a dream, bad luck sometimes/Mother dies, father goes bankrupt, whiskey/Hot rolls down your throat, and finally once". And his memory of his mother is fully expressed in poems such as "Return: An Elegy". Childhood reminiscences and attachment to kinship have since appeared more in Warren's poems.




Warren has taught at several colleges and universities in the South. At Louisiana State University, at the invitation of the president, he co-edited the Southern Review with Brooks and others. During their seven years as editor-in-chief (1935-1942), the wave of "New Criticism" was surging. Warren and Brooks co-published "Introduction to Literature", "Understanding Poetry" and "Understanding Fiction", etc. Principles are introduced into broad practice. Due to the impact of World War II, the Southern Review ceased publication in 1942, and Warren was forced to leave the South to teach at the University of Minnesota in the north. This "flight" experience from south to north profoundly influenced Warren's outlook on life, world outlook, poetics and poetry creation. The more open-minded and free atmosphere in the north also made Warren's poetry break free from some old shackles, and have new explorations in structure and content, radiating vitality, and entering a period of high poetry production; The constant "looking back" and "reflection" in the south also directly constitute the unique theme of "escape and pursuit" in his poetry, such as the fifth poem in the "Story of Time" group of poems "What were you thinking at that time, dear mother? 》


In 1950, Warren left the University of Minnesota to teach at Yale University. In June of the following year, Warren experienced the third change in his life-he and his wife, Emma Brescia, announced their divorce. One of the immediate effects of this unfortunate marriage on him was that in the 10 years from 1943 to 1953, there was almost no poetry creation. Warren married writer Eleanor in 1952. The marriage was relatively happy, and Warren also gave Warren two children. The birth of a new baby brought Warren not only joy and happiness, but also brought him a new creative peak. Most importantly, Warren found the inspiration for poetry creation. This particular "escape and pursuit" of personal married life has also directly spawned Warren's views on sexual relations (as in "An Answer to a Prayer/A Short Story That Could Have Been Longer") and family life (as in "To a Little Girl, One year old, in an abandoned castle") to explore poetry. The contrast between the old castle and the newborn child in the latter makes the picture painted by the poem quite oily, and Warren's fresh, timeless and uninhibited writing also brings a fresh feeling: "But in your laughter let the The molecular dance of stony twilight in stony dreams / As joy shines, / And in that moment of possibility, let the seagull gobbo, gobbo's wife, with us, and all, with / pull Start and sing: Redemption, Redemption!" Everything is given another perspective because of the innocent child, everything is like a fairy tale of anthropomorphism, isn't the "salvation" lyrics in the last song not the poet's own voice? The writing on the theme of "escape and pursuit" and the reflections on love, marriage, and family life in these poems are clearly marked by Warren's special life experiences.




Even in his later years, Warren continued to write, and a large number of excellent works came out. On September 15, 1989, Warren's life came to an end, but the large number of excellent works he left to people will forever be a treasure in the treasure house of literature, attracting people from generation to generation to read and study.


Although there are various themes of "escape and pursuit" in Warren's poetry, they can be roughly divided into four categories: "escape" of urban towns and "pursuit" of natural villages; "escape" of violence and atrocities; "Pursue"; "Escape" of confusion and ignorance and "Pursuit" of internal and external cognition; "Escape" of the modern wasteland and "Pursuit" of the ideal world. The first two types focus on the "escape and pursuit" of the objective environment, and the spiritual "pursuit" is driven by the "escape" of the body; Follow your heart" to fulfill your heart's desire. Warren, in his Democracy and Poetry (1975), sees poetry as a means of diagnosing and healing society, as evident in his various poems on the theme of "Escape and Seek". To achieve this purpose - these poems fully exposed the various diseases existing in society, and accordingly prescribed a good remedy, so that people who are suffering and divided can be repaired and healed in nature, and violence and atrocities can be eliminated in justice, Let the confused and ignorant find their own identity in history and self-examination, and let the wasteland return to the ideal world of truth, goodness, beauty, love, the unity of man and nature, and the fulfillment of material and spirit.


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