Poetic Language and its Energies
Afterword All speech, written or spoken, is a dead language until it finds a willing and prepared hearer. Robert Louis Stevenson, Lay Morals I began this project with a warning, as much to myself as to readers, of the dangers of metaphors. They are both protean and seductive. Having worked and in some sense lived within this one metaphor, this one particu- lar way of reading, for more than a decade, and having developed it gradu- ally and only semi-consciously for several years before that, I necessarily will not be the best judge of its limitations. However, if language is ines- capably metaphorical, all readersfrom those who most fully submit to the text and most gratefully suspend all disbelief, to the most determinedly dis- interested deconstructionistsremain equally dependent on metaphor. While an awareness of the metaphor by which one reads is not a prerequi- site to deriving joy and even meaning from the written word, it is essential for a reader who is curious about the source of that joy and that meaning, and thus a component of a more general self-awareness. In its simplest terms, the origin of this project was a desire for that un- derstanding. I knew that I felt moved, not just emotionally but cognitively, when I read poetry, and that I felt frustrated when attempting to relate that experience clearly to others. I also realized that what made me judge a poem great was exactly this quality, this palpable but ineffable power to...
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