Friday, August 15, 2008

More on Truth and Poetics

The other night, I noted a quote by Laurie Sheck and then headed off to bed to contemplate her words. I'll repeat them here now.

"The poet unmasks the language of power. The language of power is the language of the lie."

As I thought that evening about her words, as well as the following day I kept coming back to the thought that if poetry unmasks the language of power, and the language of power is the language of the lie, then poetry must be about truth. But that was an easy step for me because I've come to accept poetry as in essence a truth.

Now I know there are plenty of individuals who fail to understand the concept of poetry as "a truth" but for those who might be reading this and shaking their head, let me explain.

Where you often here people argue the concept of poetry equals truth is they will often ask about a specific poem and the details therein. When they find that the poem is not specifically about an incident that really occurred to the poet, they will jump on that as fiction.

For some, truth is an absolute. It is indisputable. Within that context, if you hold something to be true but I hold something different to be true, one of us has to be wrong. It is an all or nothing proposition. In the realm of poetics today I think we must accept that there are truths that are less than absolute. We can see something and explain it for example in a metaphorical context. In fact you and I may explain it using different metaphors. You may be able to agree that you can see what I am saying but you might have chosen a totally different metaphor then I. In this way, language allows for truths that are not absolutes. It is in the language of poetry that we can see the same thing in different ways sometime looking squarely at that which is disingenuous and calling it out.

If language has power (and I believe it does) it has it to the extent that we allow it to. Poetry frees us to use language rather than allow language to control us. Through poetry, that lie is looking a little less secure to me.

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