Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Muriel Rukeyser

from The Life of Poetry

In the author's note before the book begins, R. writes:

A way to allow people to feel the meeting of their consciousness and the world, to feel the full value of the meanings of emotions and ideas in their relations with each other, and to understand, in the glimpse of a moment, the freshness of things and their possibilities...There is an art which gives us that way; and it is, in our society, an outcast art. [poetry]


I have tried to go behind the resistance, which is often a fear of poetry, and to show what might be ahead of this culture in conflict, with its background of strength and antagonism. If we are free, we are free to choose a tradition, and we find in the past as well as the present our poets of outrage--like Melville--and our poets of possibility--like Whitman.


I have attempted to suggest a dynamics of poetry, showing that a poem is not its words or its images, any more than a symphony is its notes or a river its drops of water. Poetry depends on the moving relations within itself. It is an art that lives in time, expressing and evoking the moving relation between the individual consciousness and the world. The work that a poem does is a transfer of human energy, and I think human energy may be defined as consciousness, the capacity to make change in existing conditions. It appears to me that to accept poetry in these meanings would make it possible for people to use it as an "exercise," an enjoyment of the possibility of dealing with the meanings in the world and in their lives.

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