Platitudes and Poetitudes…

A platitude is an assertion of limited truth content but great emotional appeal. A poetitude is an assertion of limited truth content but great aesthetic appeal. Consider this, from a Paris Review interview with Auden…

INTERVIEWER

You’ve insisted we do this conversation without a tape recorder. Why?

W. H. AUDEN

Because I think if there’s anything worth retaining, the reporter ought to be able to remember it.

This has spiritual resonance, appealing, as it does, to our sense of the significance of the spoken word. It is true, though? Clearly not. Memory is a most fallible assistant. Who among us could assert that we would have remembered all that is most worth remembering of playwrights and of poets if we had not been able to read their creations at our leisure. Should the same not apply to interviewers and their tapes?

Poetitudes tend to be more original and incisive than their platitudinous cousins, with allegorical relevance or spiritual charm, but one should take not to assume that they are right.

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