The Muse and the Contemporary Classic
Mystical Experience in Annie Dillard's "Total Eclipse"
and "Lenses"
Problems at the English Department: The Death of Literary Studies
Actually Teaching
Teaching the American Weirdos
The Unseen World
Running on Empty
Why Is There English?

Who wrote this?
The Mind Errant home

All writings on this website Copyright 2008-11 by Dana Wilde. Images Copyright Dana Wilde unless otherwise attributed. You may use what you find here for any noncommercial purpose as long as you give full credit to the authors, photographers and the website. For any purpose which involves the exchange of money, including postings to websites which host any kind of financial transactions, please contact us.

Plotinus Among the Critics
The Different Worlds
of Science and the Bible
Reviews & Recollections
Arthur Clements:
A Modern Mystic
Robert Creeley:
If I Were Writing This
On Education
On the Difficulty of Reading Modern Poetry: Hart Crane and Edna St. Vincent Millay
C.F. Terrell:
A Remembrance
"'It was because you wanted to be a teacher that you provoked that trouble with the lions,' said the heavenly king. 'How true,' said Monkey with a smile, 'how true.'"
- Journey to the West, Chapter 90
Robert Creeley:
A Mainer at Heart
Contraband: A Recollection
with audio
Awakening: Rimbaud
A World of Words: On Reading and Life
Peter Kilgore:
The Bar Harbor Suite
Bruce Holsapple:
Tourist: A Long, Strange Trip
An Essay Takes the Place of a Mountain
Maine Poets:
UFOs and Stars
Spreading democracy:
The globalization of poetry

In the last few decades, the worldwide Poetry Industry has refined its product down to two essential purposes: 1) Poetry is a means of self-expression, or 2) poetry is a vehicle for fostering social justice. These are certainly two things poetry can do. But two among zillions.
Before about the 1970s -- for 5,000-plus years, that is -- the primary purpose of poetry, whether written or oral, was entertainment. It happens that language can do powerful things to your mind. So poetry was a form of entertainment that could awaken your mind. The awakening was to emotions and other kinds of mind-expanding feelings that words can trigger.
Anyone can write poems to entertain himself or express himself in his own private world. This can be a useful, even awakening, activity. But when the poems are offered for others to read, the activity is no longer the writer's, and becomes the reader's. Simple outpourings of feeling usually do not stir anything that is not already awake, or drowsing.
Social issues can be useful topics for poems. And so can everything else. When a poem on a social topic is offered for others to read, it is a good poem not when it expresses a moral view you already hold, but is good when it inspires a powerful feeling that is a new understanding of the topic. It's not the topic or the moral "message" that makes the poem. Poems that restate the statements of other poems awaken nothing new. Eventually they become tiresome. If a poem conveys to you a feeling or thought you already know, then it's not much of a poem. What makes a poem is the awakening it inspires.
There are myriads of kinds of inspiration beyond those that state your sense of social justice. Poems can awaken them.
Unfortunately for all of us, the Poetry Industry does not see it this way. Some high-profile, wealthy industrialists have stated flat-out that the only legitimate purposes for reading and writing are to foster social justice or to express personal feelings. This narrow view of poetry is a framework for worldwide psychic poverty.

Essays from Maine's backwoods available for immediate download ($8.50)
or in paperback ($16.95)
Essays on outer space and time available for immediate download ($8.95)
or in paperback ($20.95)