poems do things with the language that the language wants to do

There’s been a lot of disagreement on... whether writers have a social responsibility or should be artists for art’s sake. As a poet, I think my role is to keep writing poems, even though it’s hardly the most lucrative job in the world, and causes a great deal more grief than it does satisfaction (if you’re doing it right). There’s a reason that poems are read at weddings and funerals, at presidential inaugurations and on other milestone life occasions: poems are both products and articulations of what we value most as a culture. They can be calls to action, or they can be assertions of the primacy of lived experience, which I believe is a political act in itself. As the poet Matthew Zapruder puts it so eloquently in his recent book, Why Poetry, poetry “trains us in a radical kind of empathy that is maybe what’s missing in our culture more than anything.” I believe poems are important, that by bringing them into existence, we can and do change the world. Poems do things with the language that the language wants to do, so the very least we as poets can do is to provide containers for language to shape-shift into.

- Lisa Richter, answering rob mclennan's 12 or 20 questions over on his blog. You can read the whole thing here.

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