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Language is what stops the heart exploding. Or as TS Eliot puts it in Murder in the Cathedral, “This is one moment / But know that another / shall pierce you with a sudden painful joy.”

When I read him that day, gales battering me within and without, I didn’t want consolation; I wanted expression.Through the agency of the poem that is powerful enough to clarifying feelings into facts, I am no longer dumb, not speechless, not lost. Language is a finding place, not a hiding place.

But poets are not here to do the job of historians or docu-dramatists. It is the emotional state of the situation that poetry can enter. When Eliot says, in Four Quartets,”We had the experience but missed the meaning”, he is closing in on the problem of modern life – too fast, too surface, void of the emotional understanding that balances our dependence on practical reality and rational thought. We need our emotions as a navigation towards meaning, and that is what poetry allows.

– Jeanette Winterson

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