The Fear of Poetry
In this moment when we face
horizons and conflicts wider
than ever before, we want our resources,
the ways of strength. We look again
to the human wish, its faiths, the means
by which the imagination leads us
to surpass ourselves.
If there is a feeling that something has been lost,
it may be because much has not yet been used,
much is still to be found and began.
Everywhere we are told
that our human resources are allto be used,
that our civilization itself
means the uses of everything it has —the inventions,
the histories, every scrap of fact.
But there is one kind of knowledge —
infinitely precious, time-resistant
more than monuments,
here to be passed between the generations
in any way it may be: never to be used.
And that is poetry.
It seems to me that we cut ourselves off,
that we impoverish ourselves, just here.
I think that we are ruling out
one source of power,
one that is precisely what we need.
Now, when it is hard to hold
for a moment
the giant clusters of event and meaning
that every day appear,
it is time to remember this other kind of knowledge and love,
which has forever been a way of reaching
complexes of emotion and relationship,
the attitude that is like the attitude of science
and the other arts today,
but with significant and beautiful distinctness from these —
the attitude that perhaps
might equip our imaginations to deal with our lives —
the attitude of poetry.
What help is there here?
Poetry is, above all, an approach to the truth of feeling, and what is the use of truth?
How do we use feeling?
How do we use truth?
the scene of our life appears, however torn
we may be who now do face that scene,
it can be faced,
and we can go on to be whole.
If we use the resources we now have,
we and the world itself
may move in one fullness.
Moment to moment,
we can grow, if
we can bring ourselves to meet the moment
with our lives.
Muriel Rukeyser, from The Life of Poetry (1949)
If you enjoyed this post, why not try looking at the series of posts in conversation with the Book?