Magazine article Tikkun

Alan Shapiro on the Poetry You Will Need

Magazine article Tikkun

Alan Shapiro on the Poetry You Will Need

Article excerpt

MY BROTHER DIED OF BRAIN CANCER IN 1999. IN THE LAST DAYS OF HIS UFE HE WAS OFTEN RESTLESS and terrified. Altiiough he had never been a reader of poetry, or anything else for mat matter, in his last days he turned to poetry for spiritual comfort. And not the kind of poetry or spiritual comfort you would think He had no patience for poetry of "uplift," or cheap forms of reassurance. What he craved-what gave him solace- were poems that named his situation realistically, that accurately portrayed his fears, anxieties, and his physical and emotional pain. My brother needed poems that spoke the truth. And that in my view is the principle job of poetry- to speak the truth. By truth I mean a devotion to the fine particulars of human experience, to ourselves in all our frailty and evanescence, in all our irreducibly unique complexity. Tratti in this sense is the opposite of Group Think, or the abstractions and formulas that dominate public policy and that so easily trample over the textures of the human heart.

For the past eight years, our government has engaged in policies designed to cut the individual down to manageable size. While all bureaucracies and governments engage in substituting neat lies for messy truths, the Bush administration has refined this practice to a pernicious art What has offended me more man all the secret programs that have damaged so many lives around the planet is the sentimental public face of these secret programs, the arid heart behind the wet eyes of the "compassionate conservative. …

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