As mentioned in a previous posting, I am currently reading Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ANIMA POETÆ, a collection of unpublished writings from his note-books, edited by Earnest Hartley Coleridge.
These are fascinating. The bulk [or what I have read so far] is made up of aphorisms, mainly brisk poetic/philosophical observations, easily digestible and certainly quotable. They seem to represent and reflect the perpetual bursts of thought from both the creative and intensely busy mind.
The following quote struck me because it is a maxim that I follow whenever reviewing artists’ work, whether poetry or music. As a principle of criticism, I would always want to comment on the positive, and always look for it. This doesn’t mean avoiding being critical [and I don’t mean anchored necessarily to ‘constructive’, though this is always purposeful], because then there is never discernment. What I mean – or how I embrace Coleridge’s argument – is I don’t tend to comment on work I don’t like! I wouldn’t seek out work that doesn’t appeal in order to articulate that dislike. This doesn’t make sense – unless, of course, it is a political or educational premise/doctrine/assumption with which I disagree and would want to promote preventing its insidiousness being adopted by others.
Never to lose an opportunity of reasoning against the head-dimming, heart-damping principle of judging a work by its defects, not its beauties. Every work must have the former—we know it a priori—but every work has not the latter, and he, therefore, who discovers them, tells you something that you could not with certainty, or even with probability, have anticipated.