"If what distinguishes us from other members of the animal kingdom is speech, then literature—and poetry in particular, being the highest form of locution— is, to put it bluntly, the goal of our species."
-Joseph Brodsky

"Why would anyone write a poem in this wrecked world? And really, how could they? Massive doubt, failed love, shitty thoughts, empty spirit, a dead history compelling a transfixed vision, these are devastations that might overwhelm and silence anyone; and silence, for a poet, is a prison. It's where the descent hits bottom, it's where the poet either faces or does not face all the risks of failed comprehension."

"Answers are as transient and foolish as we are, and poets generally aren't in the solution business. In fact, if you're a poet and you're going to pose questions, they'd better approach the unanswerable. Why? Is it that only questions without answers are worth asking? Is it that the muse needs courting and doesn't usually go with know-it-alls and wise guys? Is it that questions salt and preserve life, keeping the mystery fresh?"

"If rock bottom, if total bust for a poet is silence, then the questions must be unanswerable, without remedy, to provoke the central event, which is language. Answers are the end of speech, not the beginning, and if language is the main draw in poetry, silence is the occasion for it, the ground of renewal. Questions precede speech; they're language tensely coiled, expectant."

"How can one write poetry after Auschwitz?"
-critic Theodor Adorno

"And how can one eat lunch?"
-poet Mark Strand

All of the above is excerpted from Charles D'Ambrosio's fantastic explication of Richard Hugo's poem, "Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg," which was published in his collection of essays, Loitering. Highly recommended.


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