Poetry goes with conservatism, prose with liberalism

So said Peter Viereck in the 1950s.

Peter Viereck

Peter Viereck energetically contended that prose was inherently associated with liberalism and poetry with conservatism. Hardly anything could irk a conservative anti-modernist of the postwar period more than the brazen way in which radical and avant-garde poets ignored the distinction between the proper stations and functions of poetry and prose. Eve Merriam, for instance, in a poem called “Said Prose to Verse”:

Listen, my insinuating poem,
stop poking your grinning face into every anywhere.
I have trouble enough keeping my house in order
without a free-loading moon-swigging boarder around
making like a solid ground.


For Viereck, conservatism “embodies” rather than “argues,” and whereas poetry in the 1930s argued exactly as if it were prose, conservatism could claim a closer connection to poetry than did the liberal-left. The liberals of Viereck's time could have prose; poetry — real poetry that did not poke its face into every empirical anywhere--would best be realized by conservatives.

Following Yeats's distinction between embodying truth and knowing it, Viereck wrote, “Poetry tends to embody truth, prose to know it. Conservatism tends to embody truth, liberalism to know it.”