Friday, August 11, 2006

How to help a person to see what they may be about to see 

"If you think (and it’s very unpopular to think so at present) of the poet as an agent of society and as a servant of the language, why, then, what the poet does all the time is to see what ideas and what words are alive, and, insofar as he can, to go right to the center of the words that represent the things that are vexing us. Now, if you do that, you’re bound to make things happen, because you’ll help people to clarify their feelings. They’ll have to know, a little better, what it is that they’re feeling. The path from that kind of clarification to action is not necessarily an immediate one. You don’t necessarily read a poem and pick up the telephone. But something you might call "tonalizing" does occur, a preparation to feel in a certain way, and consequently to act in a certain way. That does occur, I think, when you read a poem which goes to the words that are bothering you. I suppose you can’t expect, by means of a poem, to produce a perfect volte face in anybody; that would be very presumptuous; even a propagandist doesn’t expect to do that; but you can help a man to see what he may be about to see."

Richard Wilbur
(From Conversations with Richard Wilbur).

Back to current posts