Poetry is love. This is literally true. As poets, we do not speak partial truths. We do not say things just to say them. We do not experiment. We do not hide behind show-off language, learning, or obscurity.
The truth of a beautiful song is a beautiful truth.
But here is an even more important truth: poetry is love.
Poetry is the evidence of love, which, in terms of what we need, is a pretty big deal, since fake love is all around. We love candy. Or, our taste buds do. Our health does not love candy. The love for candy, just like the love for a lot of things, is fake; candy does not love us; no thing loves us, and therefore it is not really love to love things, to love what does not love us, for love involves sweet reciprocation; and imagine the falsity in the soul when we love that which does not love us— this is not love!
Love is that which loves and is loved in return.
The desire for candy is as close to love as some people get, and, people whose ‘greatest love’ is simply a desire for what does not love them are people who are naturally offended and embarrassed by reciprocal love, by actual love, this paradise beyond their reach, since they are too foul or stupid or selfish or hungry to have actual love.
Love has millions and millions of enemies, and the hatred of love manifests itself in all sorts of ways: the cackling laughter of the foul-mouthed humorist; the noisy rudeness of the practical-minded poetry-hater; the gruesome, cynical philosophy of the “wise,” who are barred from every delight; the Pollyanna painters of crude colors, whose frozen smiles keep love away.
Here we must say something about reciprocity. We said it is ridiculous to speak of “loving” candy since candy appeals only to a part of ourselves and is not good for us—our health. But can we then truly love a vegetable serving, or a piece of beef, since these foods are good for our health? There is a scale. Flesh loves us more than candy, but it would still be ridiculous to say a piece of dead flesh loves us. But there is a scale that we should note and consider if we strive for wisdom, and we should ponder what it means that flesh loves us more than candy.
On the other hand, we do talk of “sweet” love, and if the sweet is good, in as much as it gives us pleasure, in this way we say that candy is at least good because it provides “evidence” of the sweet—good because it is truly a delight.
We see there are two kinds of delight then, in this present example of sweetness: the sweet which is false, because it hurts our health if too often indulged, and the sweet which is true, in that it is evidence of that which is delightful. The candy maker is both good and bad, then, producing what is potentially bad (if desired) and good (as evidence).
The poem, as we said, works like candy and sweetness—the poem is “evidence” of love, not love itself. This is nevertheless not a minor consideration, since love is of infinite importance, and is denied to so many.
The poem imitates, just like the painter, and it is the vanity of both the painter and the poet to think they create, when the best they can do is present evidence of love.
The painter pontificates for hours on his art and then the mere surface of a lake in one reflected instant puts the painter to shame.
The world—which the poet and painter strives to imitate—is already an artist; the poet is not the first to arrive in the wilderness; there has been a poet there already: the self-reflecting world is a poem, a painting already. The poet and painter are hardly needed, except that [painters and poets] serving a different purpose are busily wrecking the wilderness for the comfort and pleasure of flesh and candy eaters. And so painter and poet are called upon to restore the wilderness that has been broken, even as the audience they serve has already been corrupted and sophisticated by the pieces of wilderness imbibed.
So there is already a poem in the wilderness that is not the wilderness—and further, the wilderness has been changed by the non-poets. There is a sweetness in the candy, there is a green in the leaf that is not the candy and not the leaf. And the sweetness and the green is, for the poet, mere evidence of something inscrutable, untouchable, ideal, and gone, but which nonetheless is being consumed by their audience on a grand scale. Poetry is utterly useless and impossible, then. Nuanced speech already belongs to the non-poets as they take apart the wilderness, non-poets cramming themselves full of the material the poet (or painter) would otherwise delicately use.
Now let us return to love; the actual poet secretly gives up “poetry” to all the non-poets speaking their wilderness-breaking, sophisticated sentence and song, and uses instead: love. The poem is an act of love: a speech that loves what it is speaking, and in order to love what it is speaking, ‘that which it is speaking’ can never be in the least obscure or difficult to understand; for to love is to reflect like the natural lake, to present intact and precisely what is loved, in order to be known better, and all the better loved.
We know writers who can take something very simple and make it very complex; writers who do this are neither lovers nor poets; they tend to be scholars, or plainly those haters who are barred from love. They tell long stories, demanding you pay attention to the chain, and when you fall asleep they give a literary cry of triumph, for you, the lover, failed the test, and all the literary scholars applaud, and in the din you hear the buzz-saws that cut the wilderness, or the building in every country which occurs only to build, so that everyone can have “a job,” and so the “economy” can thrive, killing every poet and every lover in the process. We hear the men sitting around bragging, with the women bored to tears; or the women gabbing, and the men bored to tears; where are the sweet tears of love, like a lovely waterfall in the wilderness? The radiant kisses of a man focused on a woman and a woman focused on a man?
But wilderness and kisses are metaphors; as poets, we prefer you don’t take our language too seriously; it is only hinting at what poetry truly is: at best the faintest evidence of divine love.
The ancient dilemma was understood by Socrates, the pre-Christ, who allowed poets one task in the Republic: to praise. Praise is the simplest form of love, the evidence of love we find in speech, the only kind—for otherwise it is rhetoric, not fashioned for love, rhetoric which is valuable, but not the same as song. The qualifications we find in rhetoric are those qualifications which check pure praise and love; the heart of rhetoric is this qualifying quality that demands a reason as it unfolds like prose; it does not reflect like poetry.
Poetry praises what it says—this is how it loves. This is why poetry is the very opposite of the obscure, and if it is not understood immediately, based on precisely what it says, it is not poetry.
We spoke of a precise saying that is then said by poetry in such a manner to hyper-clarify what is said, in a manner that makes the most difficult thought clear to the mind of a child.
Of course, if that which is made abundantly clear is not worth pondering in the first place, the poem has no point. Poets who have nothing to say will hide what they say in obscure speech, thinking smoky appearances will be applauded for the very thing which is not poetic: obscurity.
The poem’s evidence of love is two-fold: first, a beautiful picture, idea, or insight, perfectly worth loving and admiring in itself, and second, the presentation of it so the reader sees it with as much ease and joy as humanly possible. There is a twofold praise: praise presented in a praiseworthy manner is, if we might say it as briefly as possible, a poem.