I suspect that in what I would call a true poem, the words come from the emotion. In a poem that I would call just an exercise in verse, the emotion (if it is achieved at all) comes from the words. Both poems can be satisfying to read, but one is a lesser art. It goes without saying that primacy of emotion by itself is not sufficient to ensure a true poem—I am presupposing a high level of artistry with language in the poet. But it is emotion that should inspire a poet’s words, and not vice versa. If the emotion is primary, the words will transmit that emotion to others. Words—the poet’s own words—should not be what inspires the poet’s emotion. He should not be using his virtuosity with language to convince himself that he’s feeling something.
- Robyn Sarah, in a blog post over at the The Best Canadian Poetry blog. You can read the whole thing here.