A MIND THAT is lively and inquiring, compassionate, curious, angry, full of music, full of feeling, is a mind full of possible poetry. Poetry is a life-cherishing force. And it requires a vision—a faith, to use an old-fashioned term. Yes, indeed. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry. Yes, indeed.
I SUPPOSE WHAT MOST people associate with poetry is souls searching for fiercely felt emotions. We expect the poet to be a monger of intensity, to pain for us, to reach into the campfire so that we can linger in the woods and watch without burning ourselves or grubbying our clothes. Then, even if we don’t feel the fire, we can see the poet’s face illuminated by light, hear her flushed chatter, the blazing wood crackle, and imagine well enough what the fire feels like from our safe remove. Though we can’t live at red alert from day-to-day, we expect the poet to, on our behalf, and to share that intensity with us when we’re in the right mood. And if we become frightened or bored, we can simply put the poem back on the shelf. Really, we are asking the poet to live an extravagantly emotional life for us, so we
can add her experiences to our own. Because poets feel what we are afraid to feel, venture where we are reluctant to go, we learn from their journeys without taking the same dramatic risks. We cherish the insights that the poets discover: we’d love to relish the moment and feel the rampant amazement as the seasons unfold. We yearn to explore the subtleties, paradoxes and edges of emotions. We long to see the human condition reveal itself with spellbinding clarity. Think of all the lessons to be learned from deep rapture, danger, tumult, romance, intuition. But it’s far too exhausting to live like this on a daily basis, so we ask artists to feel and explore on our behalf. Daring to take intellectual and emotional chances, poets live on their senses.
IN THE HOUSE OF POETRY, nothing remains except that which is written with blood to be listened to by blood.