Eli Siegel

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Eli Siegel (August 16, 1902 – November 8, 1978) was the poet, critic, and educator who founded Aesthetic Realism, the philosophy that sees reality as the aesthetic oneness of opposites.


  • Poetry, like life, states that the very self of a thing is its relations, its having-to-do-with other things. Whatever is in the world, whatever person, has meaning because it or he has to do with the whole universe: immeasurable and crowded reality. The technique of poetry aims for the intensification of a thing through showing the likeness of what is in that thing to something else--to everything else, as different.
    • Preface, Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana: Poems, 1957
  • Poetry, like Art, is the oneness of the permanent opposites in reality as seen by an individual.
    • Definition 18 (c) Definition Press, (New York: Definition Press, 1964)
    I -
    • Literary Review- New York Evening Post , New York 1925
  • The quiet of this afternoon is strange, haunting, awful;
    Hear that buzzing in the hot grass, coming from live things; and those crows' cries from somewhere;
    There is a sluggish, sad brook near here, too.
    The bird is gone now, so graceful, fair as it was,
    And the sky has nothing but the brightness of air in it.
    The clean color of air.
    The sun makes it be afternoon here;...
    • Extract from the title poem Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana [Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana: Poems, Defintion Press, (1957)]
  • Don't shake the hand of reality with one finger.
    • Damned Welcome: Aesthetic Realism Maxims, Definition Press 1964

Self and World (1957)[edit]

  • No self can truly know itself and be ashamed.
  • Children are really desperate to see the world as pleasing; and their desperateness is part of a wise hope.
  • Every person in order to respect himself has to see the world as beautiful or good or acceptable.
  • There is a disposition in every person to think he will be for himself by making less of the outside world.
  • There is a deep and "dialectic" duality facing every human being, which can be put this way: How is he to be entirely himself, and yet be fair to that world which he does not see as himself?
  • A person is separate from all other things and together with all other things. To understand opposites in a self, the meaning of together and separate must be seen (this meaning is like that of same and different).
  • So we are alone in our blood and bones and our thoughts. It seems we are separate if we want to feel that way. And yet we can look out.
  • The world should be owned by the people living in it. Every person should be seen as living in a world truly his. All persons should be seen as living in a world truly theirs.

Everything Has to Do with Hardness and Softness (1969)[edit]

Comment on Edward Hopper's 'Early Sunday Morning'(1930)- from lecture titled -'Everything Has to Do with Hardness and Softness' (1969)

  • In reality opposites are one; art shows this.
  • All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.
  • All art puts separateness and togetherness together. All selves want to do this.
  • Aesthetics is related to every particular conflict; to everyday conflict.
  • Aesthetics is the one fundamental means a person has of liking himself.
  • Art is internal and external. The repose a person feels in aesthetic creation comes from his, for the time, feeling he is what he is and also what he is not. Ego and otherness don't fight for the while. The artist feels he has reached form in the deepest places of his personality, because things outside himself have been see courageously, truly, respectfully by him.
  • Shadows...bring softness to every thing. An object and its shadow are softness and hardness.

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