Outward Bound Ideas

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Sunday, December 31, 2006

84. From: On Becoming a Poet - Mark Strand

Something beyond knowledge compels our interest and our ability to be moved by a poem. As an adolescent I may not have known anything about the intricacies of poetry, but I was beginning to think about mortal matters the way an adult does. And that more than anything made it possible for me to respond to "You, Andrew Marvell," and, thereafter, to other lyric poems. When I say "lyric poems" I mean poems that manifest musical properties, but are intended to be read or spoken, not sung. They are usually brief, rarely exceeding a page or two, and have about them a degree of emotional intensity, or an urgency that would account for their having been written at all. At their best, they represent the shadowy, often ephemeral motions of thought and feeling, and do so in ways that are clear and comprehensible. Not only do they fix in language what is often most elusive about our experience, but they convince us of its importance, its truth even. Of all literary genres, the lyric is the least changeable. Its themes are rooted in the continuity of human subjectivity and from antiquity have assumed a connection between privacy and universality. There are countless poems from the past that speak to us with an immediacy time has not diminished, that gauge our humanness as accurately and as passionately as any poem written today.

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