Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.
Robert Penn Warren (190589)
If, in the middle of World War II, a general could be writing a poem, then maybe I was not so irrelevant after all. Maybe the general was doing more for victory by writing a poem than he would be by commanding an army. At least, he might be doing less harm. By applying the same logic to my own condition [consultant in poetry at the Library of Congress], I decided that I might be relevant in what I called a negative way. I have clung to this concept ever sincenegative relevance. In moments of vain-glory I even entertain the possibility that if my concept were more widely accepted, the world might be a better place to live in. There are a lot of people who would make better citizens if they were content to be just negatively relevant.
ROBERT PENN WARREN, speech upon receipt of the 1970 National Medal for Literature, New York City, December 2, 1970.Transcript, p. 1.