Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Poetry: a model or a theory of the person

When we describe a poem as having a “speaker,” or as giving “voice” to a person, we are not assuming anything about what a person is. Rather, we are taking the artifice of voice in the poem to offer something like a model or a theory of the person, or even a pedagogy of personhood. In its orchestrations of perception, conception, and affect, a poem elaborates upon or expands the possibilities of what a person can see, think, and feel. Through its constructive work with the sound and matter of language, the poem gives shape to the concept of the person who can think, say, and make these things. Likewise, it has often seemed intuitive to see poems as fostering recognition and solidarity between persons. As public objects, poems strive to make their ideas or conceptions of personhood perceptible and durable – if not always immediately legible – to others. In their scoring of the voice, or in their stretching of the word beyond or beneath the horizons of ordinary speech, they produce opportunities for readers and hearers to extend and expand their sympathies, and to identify even the most baroque utterance or repulsive sentiment as the testimony of a fellow mind. – Oren Izenberg