flickering in dull gloom

The tradition to which I belong, though sometimes called accessible, requires more than learning and mere intelligence. The brain flickers in dull gloom when we rely on intelligence alone. A clever and insipid irony all too often masquerades as brilliance shining in shallow mud. Mere language play and a busy head, the trickery of a lively performance, the paltry illusion of a complex game, the easy rhyme and facile rhythm of popular verse, each might receive the attention and briefly excite the admiration of an applauding audience, but when the dust settles the crowd soon forgets.

I want, in poems, for the heart to feel true sentiment, the head to know eternal truth, the body to come alive with full-fleshed bone-buzzing experience, the soul to thrill to a commingling of temporal and extra-temporal things, and the spirit to surround and be surrounded by an interplay between the deep wells of the self and the stars beyond the farthest stars we might dream of but never see.

-John B. Lee, from the essay "Even at the Worst of Time" in And Left a Place to Stand On: Poems and Essays on Al Purdy.

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