Plain truth cannot be told by means of poetry
whose rhymes and rhythms ace it so that we can’t see,
truth trumped by it when lacking language that, prosaic,
to all hyperbole can be apotropaic.
And yet, prosaic truth is also inconclusive,
when chips are down, without much money in the pot,
and fools us being both evasive and elusive
by causing those who seek it to appear dim-witted.
Inspired by an article by Colm Tóibín in the LRB, May 14, 2009 (“Follow-the-leader”) on the correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell:
In a letter to Lowell in 1955 Bishop tried to work out what the difference between prose and poetry might be for her, what it was that caused her to derive ‘a great satisfaction’ from the few stories she wrote, including ‘In the Village’. ‘It’s almost impossible not to tell the truth in poetry, I think,’ she wrote, ‘but in prose it keeps eluding one in the funniest way.’ For most of her life, Bishop was interested in managing what eluded her with considerable care so that the truth, when it appeared, might become sharper and more precise, so that she could find the right tone and form for it. She was never sure.
© 2009 Gershon Hepner 5/20/09