In Why Poetry, Zapruder quotes Jorge Carrera Andrade from his 1940 essay “Origin and Future of the Microgram”: “It might seem almost impossible to enclose the great movement of the universe in such a narrow space. But through a kind of magic, the poet manages to make the infinite enter into that small cell. There, every surprise may fit.”
I’ve been talking recently with fellow writers about how to manage our world and its nonstop televised violence into the intimate rooms of poetry, while maintaining both our sanity and our authenticity as citizens of the world and artists too. We see everything just like everyone else, have the same responses: “What the…,” “How the hell…,” “This is horrible.” But a lot of art expressing “this is horrible” is not going to make an impact in the saturated world.
I think of Picasso’s “Guernica,” of Wilfred Owens’s “Dulce et Decorum Est,” of Maya Lin’s devastating Vietnam Memorial. How did they do it, how did they absorb for us the pain of the time and make of it something that remains chillingly relevant for a future they had no way of seeing?
Pain never ends. Horror never stops. We suck as a species. But we, or I, anyway, persist in thinking that art has some role to play that transcends the everyday outrage, that jolts us from our daily “Are you f’ing kidding me?” into a space of, if not hope, at least of a sense of connection. And in connection lies the possibility of…what? Hope, I guess. Yeah, hope. I guess.