Christian Wiman

Eliot’s description of writing as an “extinction of personality” . . . and I think some of Eliot’s more notorious critical pronouncements having to do with the objectification and impersonality of the artist . . . ought to be read at least in part as Eliot’s attempt to define . . . the ambivalence that most serious poets ultimately feel for their gift, which they wish would once and for all change them, or heal them, or just leave them to the unmediated life which they imagine words have led them away from.

. . .

The difficulties of form, which if clung to beyond a certain point turn what was defense and refuge into an inescapable cage, must become the difficulties of life itself, one’s craft adapted to and altered within what Keats called “the van of circumstance,” one’s passion for poetry transformed—but not attenuated, never relaxed—into a passion for life.

— from “Finishes: On Ambition and Survival”