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Catching up with Kuusisto

February 7, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

It’s a pleasure to catch up with Stephen Kuusisto’s blog, Planet of the Blind.* Some recent highlights:

We are listening for something; we’re trying to protect our souls. We want to know what words keep others alive; what words keep the soul reading. We want to make an ark out of this knowledge. But a poem will do. (“Poetry Singular, Plural Then“)

[It’s true; we should live as if something were at stake, as if our lives mattered, as if art helps.]

The plural poet knows that her audience “is” the world, the world in which words will find their utility; that words are much like the fallen acorns gathered by wintering animals, they must be carried away and become something beyond their first intention; that poetry lives in the bewildering weather of others, many many… (“Poetry Singular, Plural Then“)

[It’s true; good writing lives in and among the actors who we might mistakenly think of as passive because we call them readers.]

Then there is “Think Beyond the Label, Pilgrim,” which reminds us that we live partially in the discourses of our culture [and can break things open there from time to time] and quite a bit too in bodies that need jobs to pay rent and eat decently and like life and ourselves and others. Hurray for symbolic breakthroughs; hurray for decent jobs.

Those changes in discourse matter: think about the feeling many of us had in about 2002 that the press had stopped insisting that global warming was just a theory that one might readily dismiss; think of Frank Rich today in the NY Times saying how important it was this week that an American general said before Congress that it was just rather an ordinary fact of life that homosexuals had served well in the military all the decades of his career, and nothing much happened in the way of an uproar in the media. But one grim view of the end of the civil rights movement would be a person of entitlement thumbing his nose at a good number of fellow citizens and saying, “Sure, vote all you want. I still have a better house and job than you have, if you even have a job or a house. Who cares if you can vote?”

We live in the symbolic realm of culture; we live in houses and bodies supported by our jobs. We live in two realms of justice and hope for justice.


*S. K. and I were classmates, writing poetry in graduate school, so it’s not like reading the work of a stranger.

  1. February 8, 2010 at 1:22 am

    Philip Levine, the final words of a poem called “Gospel” that starts the book called _Breath_:

    …How weightless
    words are when nothing will do.

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