Does Poetry Have Street Cred?

Major Jackson at The Paris Review:

Poems have reacquainted me with the spectacular spirit of the human, that which is fundamentally elusive to algorithms, artificial intelligence, behavioral science, and genetic research: “Sometimes I get up early and even my soul is wet” (Pablo Neruda, “Here I Love You”); “Earth’s the right place for love: / I don’t know where it’s likely to go better” (Robert Frost, “Birches”); “I wonder what death tastes like. / Sometimes I toss the butterflies / Back into the air” (Yusef Komunyakaa, “Venus’s Flytrap”); “The world / is flux, and light becomes what it touches” (Lisel Mueller, “Monet Refuses the Operation”); “We do not want them to have less. / But it is only natural that we should think we have not enough” (Gwendolyn Brooks, “Beverly Hills, Chicago”). Once, while in graduate school, reading Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” in the corner of a café, I was surprised to find myself with brimming eyes, filled with unspeakable wonder and sadness at the veracity of his words: “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: / The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star, / Hath had elsewhere its setting, / And cometh from afar.” Poetry, as the poet Edward Hirsch has written, “speaks out of a solitude to a solitude.”

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