Chapter

The Resistance to Poetry

James Longenbach

in The Resistance to Poetry

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2004 | ISBN: 9780226492490
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226492513 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226492513.003.0001
The Resistance to Poetry

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This chapter explores the ways in which poets since the time of Callimachus have resisted their own usefulness. It suggests that a poem can't help but to be meaningful; it may speak as easily to one person as to a thousand. But especially when it has something urgent to say, a poem's power inheres less in its conclusions than in its propensity to resist them, demonstrating their inadequacy while moving inevitably toward them. At the same time, however, a poetry content with limitation would be merely as alluring as a poetry content with grandeur. Poets fear wisdom. This is why great poems threaten to feel beside the point precisely when we want them to reflect our importance: language returns our attention not to confirm what we know but to suggest that we might be different from ourselves.

Keywords: poetry; poems; wisdom; meaning

Chapter.  3968 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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