... in the same issue yesterday (NYTBR), an essay by David Orr on 2 novels in which the perilous plot climaxes hinge on the recital of a poem. I thought Orr's argument about poetry's useful/useless-ness was sort of contradictory & over-subtle. He used the novelists' "application" to emphasize poetry's distance from any obvious utilitarian purposes, and he showed a familiar disdain for the general culture's misguided notions of poetry's therapeutic or "uplift" or political aspects.

Somehow I think he may have missed the real point the novelists (through their characters) were making : which is that on some basic simple & essential level, we are all poets : we think poetically, we want words which work poetically, we read life itself poetically. I was reminded inevitably (by the fictions' plots) of the woman in Georgia a few weeks ago, taken hostage by a man who had just shot to death 3 people at the courthouse, who talked him into surrendering to the authorities, by reading to him from an inspirational book. Everyone is a poet on some level, it's a human trait.

The whole race is a poet that writes down
The eccentric propositions of its fate.

- Wallace Stevens, from "Men Made Out of Words"

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