The seat of the soul is where the inner world and the outer world meet. Where they overlap, it is in every point of the overlap. - Novalis

Friday, September 10, 2010

a piece of paper, some words

"In my civilization it's customary to describe poetry as discarded, almost moribund, an all-too-exclusive art form, without power to break through. And the poets try to push themselves upon the world of the mass media, to get a few crumbs of attention. I think it is time to emphasize that poetry--in spite of all the bad poets and bad readers -- starts from an advantageous position. A piece of paper, some words: it's simple and practical. It gives independence. Poetry requires no heavy, vulnerable apparatus that has to be lugged around, it isn't dependent on temperamental performers, dictatorial directors, bright producers with irresistible ideas. No big money is at stake. A poem doesn't come in one copy that somebody buys and locks up in a storeroom waiting for its market value to go up; it can't be stolen from a museum or become currency in the buying and selling of narcotics, or get burned up by a vandal.
When I started writing, at 16, I had a couple of like-minded school friends. Sometimes, when the lessons seemed more than usually trying, we would pass notes to each other between our desks--poems and aphorisms, which would come back with the more or less enthusiastic comments of the recipient. What an impression those scribblings would make! There is the fundamental situation of poetry. The lesson of official life goes rumbling on. We send inspired notes to one another."   


 Tomas Tranströmer. Translated by Judith Moffett.   
from "Answer to Uj Iras."  Ironwood 13 (1979):  38-9. 
Borrowed from this fine collection: Why Poetry Exists.

I should perhaps add that Tranströmer is one of my favorite poets - his New Collected Poems in English is a marvel.

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