What Poems Are For

Sep 4 2013 @ 7:31pm

Meena Alexander plumbs the meaning of poetry, which tries to render into words “what is deeply felt and is essentially unsayable”:

The poem is an invention that exists in spite of history. Most of the forces in our ordinary lives as we live them now conspire against the making of a poem. There might be some space for the published poem, but not for its creation: no ritualized space is given where one is allowed to sit and brood, although universities can give you a modicum of that.

In a time of violence, the task of poetry is in some way to reconcile us to our world and to allow us a measure of tenderness and grace with which to exist. I believe this very deeply, and I see it as an effort to enter into the complications of the moment, even if they are violent; but through that, in some measure, poetry’s task is to reconcile us to the world—not to accept it at face value or to assent to things that are wrong, but to reconcile one in a larger sense, to return us in love, the province of the imagination, to the scope of our mortal lives.