Composed Wonder

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:
Composed Wonder

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  • Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)


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This chapter discusses wonder in poetry. Wonder is the reinvention of humility, the means by which we fall in love with the world. We gaze at the moon. We read a poem we've read a hundred times before. While a poem might speak vividly in one circumstance, it may never speak again. An event of unimaginable proportion may render a poem shockingly relevant, or it may make the poem feel smaller than ever before. In any case, the power of a poem inheres in the realization that we cannot count on it. Its ephemeral consolation depends precisely on its being ephemeral, open to the vicissitudes of self-doubt. Not wonder, but composed wonder. Not the composition achieved, but the composition unraveling. Not the meaning as such but the fact of the poem's existence as a movement of language—small enough to be remembered whole, difficult enough to be forgotten.

Keywords: poems; poetry; wonder; composition

Chapter.  5098 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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