Resist the intelligence almost successfully

The Believer, in conversation with Rebecca Lindenberg:


RL: I think there is a general misconception that you write poems because you “have something to say.” I think, actually, that you write poems because you have something echoing around in the bone-dome of your skull that you cannot say. Poetry allows us to hold many related tangential notions in very close orbit around each other at the same time. The “unsayable” thing at the center of the poem becomes visible to the poet and reader in the same way that dark matter becomes visible to the astrophysicist. You can’t see it, but by measure of its effect on the visible, it can become so precise a silhouette you can almost know it.

Perhaps this is what Wallace Stevens means when he says, “Poetry should resist the intelligence almost successfully.” Poetry isn’t about expression so much as exploration. Poetry is hard because it takes on big problems like love, grief, language, whether there is or isn’t a self to express, and the various implications either way. Poetry takes things we take for granted all the time (like language) and makes us take another look at it—defamiliarizing it, re-inventing it.


holy fuck, that’s surgically precise.

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