Why this?

The occasional poem of my own and a generous helping of work by others that I find inspiring. Site is named for a beloved book by one of my favorite writers, Italo Calvino, whose fanciful work lights--and delights--my soul.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Poetry: cure for our pervasive skepticism about whether language works

I take it that our having to ask ourselves what poems and pop songs are for, and our compulsion to suggest answers, is a good thing—that it’s the fields that are certain of their purpose and their standing that lend themselves most to reified thinking. I mean principally the natural sciences, which shade now so easily into the most preposterous scientism. Evolutionary psychologists will tell you that the arts exist to—well, there’s only one reason any human endeavor exists, according to evolutionary psychology. Phillips suggests that it’s worth asking what poetry’s good for because science is always providing answers to the question of what science is good for—vaccines, Google, drone strikes, showrooms filled with fabulous prizes. And for Phillips, poetry—and pop, I’d add—provides a “cure for our pervasive skepticism about whether language works.” Whether, that is, the right words can, as psychoanalysis teaches, make us better off.

--Michael Robbins

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