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The value of poetic discourse

by David Smalling

Poetry is a discourse practiced in symbols, and differs from prose because prose explains while poetry merely suggests. Even the most concrete statement in is suggestive, because of the allusion and reference innate it to it, but is undocumented like the reference of prose. What makes the concrete statement of poetry suggestive is the same that proves it discursive at the same time. Discourse in poetry does not exclude the new and the creative imagination, for it is not a repeat of what was said before, but an enlargement by the contribution of what was not said. This is also what makes the discourse of poetry art, for it is striving complete the uncompleted and so obtain perfection .  Art is the search for perfection, by which the beauty of an object is communicated to the seeker of the object.  This is what poets do in enlargement.

Enlargement is not an addition to the subject but to a representation of the subject. Each enlargement to a representation then is distinct in continuity, for it provides something new that refurbish the perspective of the old without altering its substance. The imagination that produces the enlargement is like a seed, which draws physical sustenance from its environment to reveal its character as a tree. Every poem is a special tree, and bears fruits according to the suggestions it makes to those who interact with it. And all its fruits convey the same nutrients and the same specialness of taste.

Taste is genre, rhythm, rhymes, all defining boundaries of specialness that provides in poetry a tension. Imagination wants to become everything, because imagination quests for self. Imagination is the recovered memory of a forgotten beginning when all things were one in an absolute consciousness. The boundaries of time prevent the imagination from fully going back, and taste is how we identify those boundaries in poetry.  Rhythm controls the frequency of the poetic wave and defines its energy. Rhymes dictate the ideas terminus, and hence its volume and shape. Genre brings imagination to a focus, excluding alternative dimensions of interest. The sum of taste is the aesthetics of poetry, and it is regulated by nothing more than the unwritten ethics of the poet. Aesthetics and ethics two sides of the coin of the art discourse, which is to say taste is a negotiation between the self and the other.

This negotiation between the self and the other resides in the poet’s consciousness, for no art can be produced without this consciousness. Poetry would be reduced to a selfish and petty dribble of words without its consciousness.  Words would be a menu of meaningless imposters foisting on the world a charade of taste unless imbued with consciousness of the discourse. Imagination’s search for self must pick through the rubble of social needs and concerns like an archaeologist, using each to retrace the path back to the beginning. Poets are social beings with a voice of distinction, and this voice reduces the rubble of social disintegration by speaking for the marginal and the oppressed, and by giving them access to the beautiful and the centre of the absolute. Poetry through its creativity negotiates for the ideal in our consciousness, and creates and identification that provides our affinity to the poem.

The affinity to the poem is some due to the political popularity of the poet, but this affinity like the failed poem cannot last. Self-centered explanations of the feelings cannot succeed as the discourse of imagination, nor function effectively as the language of feeling. Great poems shift the English language on its axis, for poetry alone can change the rules of language without penalty and rejection from purists and grammarians. The poetic license is redundant in failed poems, because it is not able to liberate new meanings from the social mass imprisoned in the old and tired innate meaning of words in hostage.     

Book: Shattered Sighs