Saturday, February 19, 2005

Eli Siegel: A Brief Biography

I am glad to reprint this biographical information about Eli Siegel, founder of Aesthetic Realism, with whom I studied from 1968-1978. I want this information, which is exact although it is brief, to be as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. And so I am reprinting it on this weblog to add my voice to many others.


ELI SIEGEL (1902-1978), poet, critic, philosopher, educator, grew up in Baltimore, Maryland.* In 1925 his "Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana" won the esteemed Nation Poetry Prize. "I say definitely," William Carlos Williams was to write of it, "that that single poem, out of a thousand others written in the past quarter century, secures our place in the cultural world." Beginning in 1941, the year he founded the philosophy Aesthetic Realism, Mr. Siegel gave thousands of lectures on poetry, history, economics — all the arts and sciences. And he gave thousands of individual lessons to men, women, and children, which taught a new way of seeing the world based on this principle: "The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites."

These lessons are the basis of Aesthetic Realism consultations now given at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York and by telephone worldwide. There are also public seminars and dramatic presentations, and classes, including a workshop in the Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method — the educational method used with historic success for over 25 years in classrooms from elementary school through college.

Among Mr. Siegel's many published works are Self and World: An Explanation of Aesthetic Realism; Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana: Poems, which was nominated for a National Book Award in 1958 (John Henry Faulk, speaking of the poems in this book, said on CBS radio, "Eli Siegel makes a man glad he's alive"); Hail, American Development, containing 178 poems, including 32 translations; James and the Children: A Consideration of Henry James's "Turn of the Screw"; and Goodbye Profit System: Update.

Eli Siegel taught how crucial it is for people, in order to like themselves, to want to know and respect other people and the world. The following passionate, logical, musical lines from "Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana" stand for that just way of seeing — which he had all the time:

The world is waiting to be known; Earth, what it has in it! The past
is in it;
All words, feelings, movements, words, bodies, clothes, girls, trees,
stones, things of beauty, books, desires are in it; and all are to
be known;
Afternoons have to do with the whole world;
And the beauty of mind, feeling knowingly the world!