A challenging thought in a book review in yesterdays NYT Book Reivew.
The writer of the review, of a book on poetry notes:
The poetry columnist for the Book Review, Orr is also an attorney, which makes sense: a good poem, like a sound legal argument, puts the right materials in the best order so as to convince an audience. A lawyer doesn’t want his listeners to say, “I wonder what he meant” any more than a poet does.
But just as you can’t predict the outcome of a trial, so, too, does poetry work in mysterious ways.
The book is called Beautiful and Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry, and it has as at least one of its points that poetry needs to be understandable, but that its impact is often unpredicatable.
I have noted how good legal writing and good folk song writing combines the general and the very particular.
Think of Holly Near’s song referending Karen Silkwod, It Could Have Been Me:
THERE’S TALK OF NUCLEAR SAFETY AND THERE’S TALK OF NATIONAL PRIDE
BUT WE ALL KNOW IT IS A DEATH MACHINE AND THAT’S WHY KAREN DIED,
And, compare that with a good brief (not a real one here): “The judge repeated violated the defendant’s right to be heard (“No, Sir I am not going to listen to that — its nothing to do with me.” (Tr V-3).
Anyway, maybe we are all poets at heart, and should allow ourselves more often not to hide it.