Jay Ruzesky: So poetry opens possibility as opposed to the way language, in a "scientific" or objective way, does not?
Jan Zwicky: Could we make a distinction here? Science itself, and the way many scientists think, is not always that different from lyric thought. So we really do need to use the word "scientific" in scare quotes, as you do, when we're setting up this contrast. When we use it in this way, we're referring to a picture of science - one common in the media and in academic humanities departments. That picture sees science as a kind of thinking bound by rigid and simplistic canons of logic, aimed at exploiting and controlling the world. This is really, still, Francis Bacon's mid-seventeenth-century conception of science.
What is the relation between lyric thought and this Baconian picture of science? I don't think lyric poetry is "subjective" in a sense that contrasts with Baconian "objectivity;" it's not (principally) aimed at voicing an unchallengeable, irreducibly personal point of view. But I do think that if you read a good lyric poem, you have to give yourself to ways of thinking that aren't conditioned by the Baconian ideal. And that allows you to acknowledge that you do know things in a way that Baconian science doesn't. Culturally, we try to control such knowing by marginalizing things like lyric poetry and saying, "Oh, the arts are about imagination, and the imagination is for making things up. What they say isn't 'true;' they're not 'objective'." It's all politics, that talk. It's a way to control ways of knowing that are inimical to a cultural alliance between capitalism and technology, which is part of the West's inheritance from the Enlightenment. The imagination can but doesn't always "make things up;" in fact, imagination, which allows us to perceive likenesses and similarities, is fundamental to knowing the way things are.
- from The Malahat Review #165, Winter 2008.