Poetry Propaganda

poetry propaganda


This is what some people have said
About why poetry matters:

‘Poetry’s a glimpse of an alternative.’
‘Poetry’s a magic dance to keep calamity at bay.’
‘Poetry’s about a better way of being in the world.’

‘Poetry’s an affirming spiritual flame.’
‘Poetry redresses the spiritual balance.’
‘Poetry’s the soul’s search
For its release in language.’

‘Poetry says more about the psychic life
Of an age than any other art.’
‘Poetry has to be strong enough to help.’

‘Poetry is a place where all the fundamental questions
Are asked about the human condition.’
(Which may be why some people can’t bear
Much poetry, or dislike it altogether).

When Nehru was dying
He’d written out the last verse of Robert Frost’s poem,
‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’
And he had it on a piece of paper by his bed.

He spoke its last line aloud,
Over and again before he died:
‘And miles to go before I sleep…
And miles to go before I sleep…
And miles to go before I sleep…’


Heathcote Williams

With fulsome acknowledgements to Neil Astley’s Introduction to ‘Staying Alive: real poems for unreal times,’ Bloodaxe Books, 2002; the lines quoted are by Wallace Stevens, Seamus Heaney, David Constantine, George Seferis, W.H.Auden, Joseph Brodsky, and Charles Simic.


By Heathcote Williams

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