I have always aspired to a more spacious formthat would be free from the claims of poetry or proseand would let us understand each other without exposingthe author or reader to sublime agonies.
In the very essence of poetry there is something indecent:a thing is brought forth which we didn’t know we had in us,so we blink our eyes, as if a tiger had sprung outand stood in the light, lashing his tail.
That’s why poetry is rightly said to be dictated by a daimonion,though it’s an exaggeration to maintain that he must be an angel.It’s hard to guess where that pride of poets comes from,when so often they’re put to shame by the disclosure of their frailty.
What reasonable man would like to be a city of demons,who behave as if they were at home, speak in many tongues,and who, not satisfied with stealing his lips or hand,work at changing his destiny for their convenience?
It’s true that what is morbid is highly valued today,and so you may think that I am only jokingor that I’ve devised just one more meansof praising Art with the help of irony.
And yet the world is different from what it seems to beand we are other than how we see ourselves in our ravings.People therefore preserve silent integrity,thus earning the respect of their relatives and neighbors.
There was a time when only wise books were read,helping us to bear our pain and misery.This, after all, is not quite the sameas leafing through a thousand works fresh from psychiatric clinics.
The purpose of poetry is to remind ushow difficult it is to remain just one person,for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,and invisible guests come in and out at will.
What I’m saying here is not, I agree, poetry,as poems should be written rarely and reluctantly,under unbearable duress and only with the hopethat good spirits, not evil ones, choose us for their instrument.
from The Collected Poems: 1931-1987. (The Ecco Press, 1988)
Manifold Nature by John Burroughs