Monday, November 15, 2010

A Poem as a Poem is Not Enough

from The Master and His Emissary (151):

"We see things by seeing them as something."

Another problem with self-aware quasi-Enlightenment-style modern poetry is that it often takes too close to heart MacLeish's "a poem must not mean but be."

No really, folks, a poem must mean.

That is to say--we already know it's a work of art. We know upon reading the thing that it is, in fact, a poem (prose poetry/ubuweb-stuff aside).

But we cannot see the poem unless we see it as something. We cannot understand the value of the art itself unless it becomes an object in our minds. Not a mere poem, a rank verse, but a living, breathing thing that engages our mind.

McGilchrist says earlier in the book that metaphor is the only way of knowing anything--that we learn and understand by comparison.

If a poem exists solely as itself, it's nothing. It is by calling upon itself comparisons to previous knowledge and experience--that the poem becomes anything, let alone art.

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