Why I Write (stolen from a better writer than I)

January 20th, 2011

Critical theory is full of discussion of the inadequacies of speech, and it’s true that words are arbitary things, assigned to their objects in slippery ways, and that we cannot rely on words to convey to another person what it is like to be ourselves. ‘What proof do we have,’ writes Craig Morgan Teicher, ‘that/when I say mouse, you do not think/of a stop sign?’

But we have nothing else, and when words are tuned to their highest ability, deployed with the strengths the most accomplished poets bring to bear on the project of saying what’s here before us – well, it is possible to feel, at least for a moment, language clicking into place, into a relation with the world that feels seamless and inevitable. If that is a dream, so be it. At that instant when langague seems to match experience, some rift is healed, some rupture momentarily salved in what Hart Crane called ‘the silken skilled transmemberment of song.’

Mark Doty, The Art of Description: World into Word


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