Dear Bower:

You see, I was right! I predicted that sometime you would write me a whole letter — and you did almost immediately! This just goes to show something or other. Anyway, it was and is a good letter, and I'm grateful for it.

Indeed the two observations you quote do "deserve a second going over". We know well what Yeats' father meant — "That which can be understood is not poetry". It is a dangerous saying, certainly, as the essential truth is likely to be; and you suggest the danger. My explanation of the saying is given in my Poetic Values. I'm sure that the term poetry meant to him the essence of all the arts that cannot be communicated by direct factual statement, and therefor cannot be "understood" in the scientific sense of knowing, being explicable. If this view were not correct, the arts would have no function, and the devices of the art of poetry would never have been invented. Try to "explain" the magic in a fine passage of poetry; try to make it "understood"! It cannot, in this sense, be understood"; it can only be shared as experience. I know I'm not telling you anything new and I'm just touching the surface. Poetic Values does go deeply into the matter.

And — the other wise saying — "It is almost always disastrous not to be a poet"— that too deserves a second "going over". There's a passage in "The Creative Dream" (Poetic Values) that shows why this is true. Poetry completes the circle of human reality. With only the sense view of the world a man is trying to live in a hopelessly limited world.

What I am saying is clearly untrue unless the larger view of poetry be taken, as set forth in Poetic Values. According to that view, the poetic impulse is an integrating force. Poetry, traced to the point of its origin in human consciousness, is religion, and is ultimately concerned with the conceptions of unity and wholeness. I think of poetry now (and for at least a dozen years I have felt and thought the same) as a way of seeing the world, a way of being, rather than a way of writing. So I am really meaning what I am trying to say.

And what you say of the Abbe Bremond is certainly pertinent here! Poetry akin to prayer! In its essence, of course! As for musical, poetic cussing! Yes, indeed, I've heard it. In the hot summer of 1901 I carried the hoe for an Irishman (bless his heart!), and he was regarded as an expert in innocent profanity! We were plastering a house, working 12 hrs. a day, and it was hot! Once he yelled "mortar!" at me when I was packing the stuff upstairs. That made me sore, so I decided to bury him in the stuff. I mixed a big batch and carried it to him at the trot, pouring pouring it on his mortar board until the stuff flowed over the floor. Then he cussed! I'd not care to write his peroration, but it was luridly original and flabbergastingly outrageous!

You know, those days there were actually cussing matches. The idea was to cuss longer than the other fellow without repeating. It was quite harmless and pretty funny — hardly related to prayer, however. But the figures of speech!

I must know your Abbe Bremond again about it being disastrous not to be a poet. We can't, and don't mean "a fellow who writes poetry," do we? This point is clear enough.

I'll have to write old man Stewart and thank him for the offer of his beds!



I do want to visit out there. Don't know yet what time would be best. I'd love to do that for Dr. Schmitt. Please tell him.

John Neihardt
Route 7
Columbia, Mo.
[COL?]UMBIA, [MO.?] SEP 26 130 PM 1959
______ AirMail
Dr. Bower Aly, 1138 22nd Ave., East, Eugene, Oregon.