Completely agreeing with someone else’s opinion is a rare thing. I agree with poet Alice Fulton and what she recently said about poetry in an interview with The New Yorker’s Book Bench though.
Funny that I find so many things to love on The Book Bench.
Anyway, what Fulton says about poetry is right in line with how I see it, being a bit of a poet myself. And here it is, for all to see!
How do you define poetry? What distinguishes it from prose?
Poetry emphasizes music, rhythm, reticence, multiplicity. These qualities, present in prose to varying degrees, are intensified in poetry, framed and underscored by the poetic line. The language of poetry is more distilled and oblique than the language of prose, which tends to be purposeful. A newspaper, for instance, is written to convey information efficiently. We don’t linger over news stories, reveling in the language, mesmerized by the unsaid. A poem, on the other hand, invites readers to fill in the blanks. It lives in the space between words. Like a joke or a koan, a poem can’t be explained. It has meaning, but it doesn’t have a “message;” its stratas are too vast and complex to be neatly summarized. There are unspoken implications at every turn; you have to intuit it, “get it.” It’s recursive, an infinite regress.
And that, my friends, is what she said.