June 10, 2011

"Not to pull the shades down on what's happening next door..."

This is from a recent Paris Review interview with Adrienne Rich, on a topic I ponder often:

What are the obligations of poetry? Have they changed in your lifetime?

I don’t know that poetry itself has any universal or unique obligations. It’s a great ongoing human activity of making, over different times, under different circumstances. For a poet, in this time we call “ours,” in this whirlpool of disinformation and manufactured distraction? Not to fake it, not to practice a false innocence, not pull the shades down on what’s happening next door or across town. Not to settle for shallow formulas or lazy nihilism or stifling self-reference.

Nothing “obliges” us to behave as honorable human beings except each others’ possible examples of honesty and generosity and courage and lucidity, suggesting a greater social compact.

(Earlier in the inteview she takes issue with the interviewer's posing the dichotomy of "political" v. "personal."  Here's the link to the full interview:)

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