Poems are Conversations

THIS MAY BE EXPANDED

Are poems, taken as wholes, references to inner states of the poet, or something else? References ‘to’ something else, or just something else?

Maybe all three at different times? My own poems move between these positions. That’s why I find Wittgenstein’s remarks so bracing. In the end, for him it’s all a conversation. The human being is the best model of the mind (see Kerr, 140).

Sappho’s Energy: Poem as Pure Potential

“Love shook
my mind like a wind falling on oak-trees on a mountain.” Sappho, Fr. 47 (Andrew M Miller)

Sappho’s energy — enargeia or vivid presence— awakens in me wonder at poetry and more specifically the things we call poems. How do they connect with our deepest desire to see and know the truth of things?

A poem is quite literally and essentially a space for wording the between, a sort of nothing, to use the terminology of William Desmond. Sappho’s fragments expose the flow of words into the defined empty space of the poem that pre-exists the act of communication. Meters and syntactic conventions are only two of the many structures whose interplay makes the poem real to us. Her metaphors may be traditional but they are often startling in their power to create strong feelings in readers by engaging them through analogy. All that glorious mental life is sponsored by the pregnant silence of her meters and stanzas as potential communication between subjects, both the axis of words and grammars and the axis of poet and audience.