A: It is merely a matter of deciding who is master, poem or poet.
B: That sounds a bit Humpty Dumpty.
A: Do you mean upside-down or are you referring to Alice?
B: Upside down—isn't that Topsy Turvy? But I refer to Alice of course and her Humpty Dumpty--"When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
A: You approve what was said, then—clearly the poem is master.
B: Approve? How do you come to that conclusion? Alice's Humpty claims complete mastery of the meaning of language. How does that translate into supporting what was said--that the poem is the master of the poet and not the other way round?
A: My dear fellow, you are widely read but you seem to pay very little attention to what you read.
B: How is that?
A: Who is Humpty Dumpty?
B: I don't follow.
A: Of course, you don't. You don't ask the right questions.
B: Who is Humpty Dumpty then?
A: Humpty Dumpty is a nursery rhyme, thus a poetic form, thus a poem and is in complete mastery of all surveyed.
B: Including the poet who composed the rhyme, whoever that may have been?
A: Yes, but the composer may not have been a poet in the first place. Indeed, probably wasn't.
B: You seem to be saying that Humpty Dumpty composed some anonymous poet, not the reverse.
A: In a way, yes. But you beg the question. The authorship of the rhyme is completely unknown. Or do you prefer a goose?
B: Well, certainly the rhyme did not compose itself, did it?
A: No, but that is not the same as saying that the rhyme is master of the author or authors, whoever that may have been. Authorship is completely inconsequential.
B: I don't follow.
A: Of course not. As was said, you don't ask the right questions.
B: Let me ask—does this seemingly topsy-turvy view apply to more than poetry? To film or not, for example?
A: If the director is considered the main author of a film, with great films it is clearly the film who is master, not the director.
B: Are you serious?
A: Of course.
B: An example please.
A: That is easy—Carol Reed's The Third Man. Is there really any doubt that inarguably great film is master of a competent if otherwise undistinguished director and not the reverse.
B: That is intriguing. Orson Welles was in that film.
A: At least as much in the breach as in the observance. He is not onscreen at all for more than half the film as I recall.
B: Be that as it may—would you say the same about Welles' own Citizen Kane?
A: It almost goes without saying. Welles knew when and how to be mastered. In the making of The Third Man perhaps he was contagious. But this is a distraction. The subject is poetic mastery, not film mastery.
A: You are well read. Have you read much ancient poetry—ancient Greek poetry for example? Homer?
B: A bit of Homer of course--in translation.
A: Translation is often a problem. But let me do the asking in regard to Homer and other ancients.
A: Is there recorded any instance among the Greeks in which the Muse calls on the poet rather than the poet upon the Muse?
B: Muses now—what nonsense is this? Next you will be counting Beatrice or Virgil or The Divine Comedy itself the master of Dante and not the reverse.
A: Naturally. By the way, have you ever asked yourself why it is called “Comedy”? Bocaccio added the "Divina."
B: No. What a strange question.
A: And also by the way, why do you fall into thinking Humpty Dumpty masculine? It was an egg after all, wasn't it?
B: Even stranger and more Humpty Dumpty. May I ask who is Alice?
A: Alice, it again almost goes without saying, is prose in conversation with poetry, that is, Humpty Dumpty.
B: Ah, then--an allegory?
A: May I remind you, dear fellow, that Lewis Carroll was weaned on Pilgrim's Progress? Through The Looking Glass might be considered a comic version--or even a mirror image. Something, say, that might dream up a Christian mathematician.
B: Thoroughly new and intriguing. One has never heard or thought any of that.
A: I rest my case.
E. A. Costa September 11, 2016 Granada, Nicaragua