Does Poetry have a Moral Purpose?

“Poetry begins in a not-knowing rather than a moral impulse. A poet’s consciousness is, in this sense, improvisational and open to transformations, felicitous accidents, and an intuitive response to language generating meaning and music—that is true whether the spark igniting the poem comes from a word, a phrase, an image, or a moment in experience, present or remembered. This spark is what Mandelstam calls poryv, or impulse, and what Emerson thinks of as what is oldest and best in us, the alien visitor. This not-knowing is a hovering and receptive state of consciousness without intention (in the traditional meaning of that word).”

an excerpt from “The Lost and Unlost – poetry and the irrevocable past”an interview with Carolyn Forche’. Read the full interview here at the Poetry Foundation.


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