Thursday, August 18, 2011

A sometimes more desirable intimacy

I will be examining how the poet’s strange imagined relation with a listener who is invisible—either because he is divine, or because he exists only in the future, or because he is long dead—can be made psychologically credible, emotionally moving, and aesthetically powerful. But it is not only a neutral depiction of a relation that the poet has in mind: he aims to establish in the reader’s imagination a more admirable ethics of relation, one more desirable than can be found at present on the earth. Such is the Utopian will of these poets, as desire calls into being an image of possibility not yet realized in life, but—it is postulated—realizable. This possibility is brought to life on the page with a tenderness, wonder, and confidence that are borrowed from the closest moments of intimacy in life. Intimacy with the invisible is an intimacy with hope. Reading these poems, we take a step forward in conceiving a better intimacy—religious, sexual, or aesthetic—than we have hitherto known. - Helen Vendler (from intro to Invisible Listeners)

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