Posted by: noelwilliams | January 14, 2014

Not your usual blog post

What poets do is remake the things we find as if they are something else. This counts as meaning in a meaningless universe, because it places what seems, as we encounter it, random into a wider setting, like a stone made a jewel by being set in a ring, or a ring enriched by being placed on a finger, or a hand given purpose by opening a door, beckoning a child.

That setting places us, or our accidents, in worlds we can be gratified are greater than ourselves, consoling solitude and chaos with connection.

Such connections come from the eyes we educate, the fingers we reach out with, the worlds we build from words, the hope woven from our previous despairs. The poet’s an illusionist, filling silence with the solace of the beauties of irony, learned from experience, lusting for innocence. Beneath each line, the raving of Lear.

If poets are supposed to find truth, do they have to settle for the truths they find, and simply hope others can make more of them? Andrew Motion’s account of Keats suggests he had a core dilemma. He wanted to do good in the world, to remake it, with words his only instruments, but all he could do with words was show that good could not come from words alone. And perhaps not come at all. For all the poet might hope to do is to console suffering, as words may, but have no way to heal or remove that suffering, because that exists in a material world of entropy, of loss.

Every so often something happens in the margins of our lives which seems unjust, unfair, unnecessary, unkind, even evil, and there is nothing that can be done but write about it. Or stay silent.

Perhaps silence is the wisest choice, but poets are often fools. We can wish the universe different, and, indeed, make it different in our heads and on the page. It’s maybe our duty to do so, as the only way we are able to limit suffering.


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