“I know I would not want a vision of art that is purely utilitarian—that would not be not art, it would beor propaganda. A sonnet is neither a wrench nor a voting booth. And yet, even useless joy is not inconsequential. Joy is reasonless and “accomplishes” nothing, yet is an indispensable enlargement of measure in any life. Why do we want justice, or any other diminishment of suffering, if not for the increase of simple it brings? Or why would we want what might call a right sorrow, for that matter, as we—I at least—do want that? We know when a pool is clarified, when it is muddied. We know when a poem of darkness is opulent, in its saying, in its relationship to existence—Hopkins’s “Carrion Comfort,” for example—and that the existence of opulent grief, fully offered, is a counterweight even to despair.
I’m not saying that art is a matter of Jane Hirshfield., solace, or calmness, though it can be, and that can be welcome. I’m not saying that art is about rectification of character or making visible the existence of injustice, though it can be, and that can be welcome. I suppose I’m saying that good art is a truing of vision, in the way that a saw is trued in the saw shop, to cut more cleanly. And that anything that lessens our astigmatisms of being or makes more magnificent the eye, ear, tongue, and heart cannot help but help a person better meet the larger decisions that we, as individuals and in aggregate, ponder. That the rearrangement of words can re-open the fate of both inner and outer worlds—I cannot say why I feel this to be true, except that I feel it so in my pulses, when I read good poems,” –
(Hat tip: Jennifer Haupt)