Richard Hoffman’s essay, “Poetry Is Dissent,” which was published in Agni Magazine’s “conversations” blog on April 24, 2017 is simply too good not to share. I don’t care if you’re a friend, a fellow writer, a work colleague, or a random passerby on the street: you must read this essay! My favorite passage:
As a child, words come from a world that was there before you arrived, and you presume, because you must, that there is some correlation between the words and the things and actions and qualities for which they stand. This is the original suspension of disbelief required to acquire language in the first place. And then you go about choosing among the words offered. You try to match the right one with the right thing. You try to say it correctly. You test out the words on other people, usually your parents. Sometimes they think you’re cute, other times they threaten to wash out your mouth with soap!
But soon enough and before you’re even aware of it, you are toughening your spirit on the successive disappointments that you suffer as you learn, again and again, that the words are inadequate. You must find new ones, or combine them in a new way. Many, if not most people, make some peace with the inadequacy of language. I think what makes a person a poet (whether they write in verse or prose) is an abiding commitment to try again, all the while knowing that it is in the nature of language, and of the essence of the whole enterprise, that you will fail.
Here is the link to “Poetry Is Dissent”: https://agnimag.wordpress.com/2017/04/24/poetry-is-dissent/. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much I have!