Poïesis as making
- A work of art is not a piece of fruit lifted from a branch: it is a ripening collaboration of artist, receiver, and world.
- A poem is not the outer event or phenomenon it ostensibly describes, nor is it the feeling or insight it may seem to reveal or evoke. A poem may involve both, but is, more complexly, a living fabrication of new comprehension – “fabrication” meaning, not accidentally, both lie, falsehood, and more simply and fundamentally, anything created and made: the bringing of something freshly into being.
- Poems lean toward increase of meaning, feeling, and being.
- The writing of poems must be counted as much a contemplative practice as a communicative one.
- The desire of monks and mystics is not unlike that of artists: to perceive the extraordinary by changing not the world, but the eyes that look.
Q: What is the most important thing to do when reading a poem?
Jane Hirshfield: Listen, without worrying too quickly about whether you understand or not. Give yourself over to a poem the way you give yourself over to your own night dreaming, or to a beloved’s tales of the day. And then, try to listen first to a poem the way you might listen to a piece of music — the meaning of music isn’t some note by note analysis or paraphrase, it’s to find yourself moved.
Q: How does reading poetry change us as people?
Jane Hirshfield: It makes us more permeable, more compassionate, more rigorous, and, in needed ways, smarter. I mean that in the broadest sense: more awake and alert to subtlety and connection, more open to new feelings and new understandings. Empathy with not only people but ants and trees and mountains; sound-work’s lattice, on which surprises of thought can climb; developing the capacity for abiding in the complex and multiple and open — all these things make us smarter.
I don’t, though, want to put forward some idea of poems as primarily useful. Or at least, let me say this: one way poems may be useful is by showing how thin usefulness is.