19.4.07

seeing the thing...

Jack Gilbert

Poetry Is a Kind of Lying


Poetry is a kind of lying,
necessarily. To profit the poet
or beauty. But also in
that truth may be told only so.

Those who, admirably, refuse
to falsify (as those who will not
risk pretensions) are excluded
from saying even so much.

Degas said he didn’t paint
what he saw, but what
would enable them to see
the thing he had.


          – from Monolithos, 1982

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Another Gilbert piece that focuses on the poet’s problem – words that only approach the subject. A copy. A way in. The words aren’t the poem … instead, words are a shirt in the shape of a back.

Poetry, according to Gary Snyder, hides just beyond the edge of the light, and can’t really be seen. I believe him.

2 comments:

poet with a day job said...

This is so perfect:

"Degas said he didn’t paint
what he saw, but what
would enable them to see
the thing he had."

Technically all poetry writing is full of lies, otherwise, I would be reporting. And lies isn't really the point: it's perspective, just what Gilbert paraphrases of Degas: I don't need you to see the thing, I need you to see the thing how I see the thing. Or at least I think....

This is a great poem, thanks for posting.

Sam of the ten thousand things said...

It's a powerful piece. So compact, so complete. And the closing stanza makes my head hurt.