Reader Please Supply Meaning
Writers are all liars. We all are.
But at least they are honest liars.
They write down those necessary lies,
the kind that move men to leaps of faith
or excuse us when we fail to jump.
In the end it doesn't matter that
they let us down in the cruellest ways.
August 18, 1996
Of course that all depends on what I mean by ‘energy’ and what I mean by ‘meaning’. I find it stimulating to consider questions like this but I also don’t think one should take finding an answer too seriously. If poetry is indeed a machine—albeit one made out of words as William Carlos Williams suggested—and you pull it to pieces to see how it works, the odds are you’ll end up with a pile of verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections and miscellaneous punctuation marks and have no idea how to fit them all back together in such a way that they’ll make as much sense as they did before you began fiddling with them.
Most people who sit behind the wheel of a car know next to nothing about applied mechanics. They know if the road’s wet or icy it takes longer to stop than if it’s dry. They know nothing about the coefficients of friction. Nor do they need to. And the same with poetry. Yes, undoubtedly there are techniques involved in producing a poem and most people utilise them without knowing the names of any bar the most rudimentary ones like rhythm and rhyme. I used to enjoy analysing poems at school but I also felt afterwards like I’ve often felt since when I learn how a magic trick works. I know it’s not magic, it’s just sleight of hand and misdirection but a part of me doesn’t want to know the ins and outs. There’s precious enough magic left in the world without ridding ourselves of what little there’s left to us.
(This post began life in a slightly different format as a response to a comment on my article ‘Poetic energy’ which you can read over at The Truth About Lies if you’re interested.)