Poetry is a pilgrim’s journey

In Short Trip to the Edge: Where Heaven Meets Earth—A Pilgrimage, Eastern Orthodox poet Scott Cairns writes:

Among my students—among even the brightest of them—many start out by supposing that poetry is a species of denotative art, a laboriously embroidered species of that genus perhaps, but a primarily expressive, referential understanding. Most imagine that the role of the poet is to express her unique feelings, or to share his comprehensive and world-correcting understandings. Some few still imagine that their job is to seek out vivid experiences that they can then document.

My sense of actual poetry is that, before it can so much as begin, it must be recognized as a way by which we concurrently construct and discern experience; it is not a means by which we transmit ideas or narrative events we think we already understand, but a way we might discover more sustaining versions of them. 

Like most endeavors of the spirit, poetry itself is a pilgrim’s journey. We gather our gear, and we start out—alert to where the path will lead. 


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