Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Poetry Changes Things

"The nations thronged around, and cried aloud,
As with one voice, 'Truth, liberty, and love!'
Suddenly fierce confusion fell from Heaven
Among them there was strife, deceit, and fear;
Tyrants rushed in, and did divide the spoil.
This was the shadow of the truth I saw."

--Percy Shelley, Prometheus Unbound

It is fashionable among certain modern poets, such as the still highly admirable Charles Bernstein, to claim that "poetry changes nothing". I might venture that it has even acquired a jingle-like status among those whom it influences. The least rememberance of the implications of even the term *influence*, of which they all still parlay in, however, already begins to show, and already show quite well, that any poem of any poet once in existence may be read (or heard) by others, changing them all through this experience forever after. One is very much tempted from here to invoke Spinoza, whose conception of the affects in his Ethics appears liable to justify even the claim that even any event of mere thinking or cognition has immediate, going on infinite, ramifications for the world. Much less a poem, which is, among many otherwise ways of expressing it, an externalized memory of an inward condition by thought. Poems are just vastly influential externalizations of thought, perhaps much moreso than thought in-itself. I wish I did not even suspect the need to assuage others of the material reality of all the ideational elements of my expressions; thoughts are as corporeally real as poems or readers of poems are is my neurobiological stance. Any supposed deficiencies of this ontological gesture aside, for myself, at present, then, I desire further to impress you only with their ethical supplements. Poets express themselves to others as they are, they denude themselves to the caress of the other who faces them. Poetry changes things even just because it is an expression *from* one *to* others; the aspect of change registering in this "to and from" already quite apparently. The hands that turn a poem change the world as much as the hands that turn a screwdriver. Or the mouth that speaks a poem changes the world as much as a mouth that kisses you. No act, or behavior, or corporeal movement of the world is without consequence, in end.

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