" . . . one of poetry's chief aims is to illumine the walls of mystery, the inscrutable, the unsayable. I think poetry ought to be taught not as an engine of meaning but as an opportunity to learn to live in doubt and uncertainty, as a means of claiming indeterminacy. Our species is deeply defined by its great surges of reason, but I think it high time we return to elemental awe and wonder."I'm not sure I think poetry should be taught any one way. I kinda like it as an engine of meaning, but of course, it's also an engine of ambiguity, so none of the meanings fired up by its internal combustion are going to be definitive, and one can continue sputtering along in doubt and uncertainty.
--Major Jackson, "Does Poetry Have a Social Function," Poetry, January 2007
I was going to continue this blog entry on Keats' thoughts about doubt and uncertainty, but that last metaphor reminds me of this wonderful poem by my great mentor, Donald Finkel, so I think I'll close with it and save Keats and the penetralium for next time:
Concerning the Transmission
You might say the same of poetry:
you've sunk too much in it
to quit now, driving
good hours after bad
too much of you wound
round the wires and the hoses.
You might stop addressing
this absence beside you,
cursing through the intricate
cities, singing in high passes,
tooling down freeways,
minding the numbers,
ears pricked for oracular
tappings, limping past fields
of sullen junkers, eyeholes crawling
with nettle and goldenrod.
If you let go now, the bearings
will scream from their orbits,
the rocker arms clang in their cylinders
and the needles return to their various zeroes,
as if your hands had never clenched
this sweaty wheel.