by Quinten Neil Anderson
There’s that thing, again. It’s that thing in a poem that keeps you silent for a few minutes after reading. It’s that thing that you can’t quite place, that lingers around the page; not quite in the margins, not quite between the lines. With no particular certainty may it be explained.
But there it is, again, and you think you know it when you see it. It’s why you keep reading and writing poems. It’s palpable only in common air. This is to say that you must be with the poem for its duration, and even when you are, it escapes quickly. In a moment you dictate, in your head, what you will say, and open your lips to articulate—but it’s gone. This is why it never came up in any of your workshops—or it did, but it was never named. Or it was, but not exactly the way you thought of it, felt it, or meant it.
It’s why I keep reading and writing poems. It’s what I look for in a poem; yet I, too, cannot name it. I don’t think I would like to. It’s the reason for so many discussions about aesthetics, about single words, about the minutest syntactical occurrences. We discuss it with such words as diction, line-break, and enjambment. We attempt to argue points based on sets of rules and codes, which guide us, and allow others to follow our lines of thought. Of course, these are necessary rules and codes for communicating and maintaining consistent aesthetics, whatever the framework for the discussion may be.
But again, before any of these rules and words for communication come out of our mouths, there it is. Freud called it, “the uncanny.” It is something that knows no time or spatial boundaries. It knows no race, religion, or culture. It is that which precedes ah-ha! This is only intended to be a gentle reminder that poems are of feeling first, of thought second, and lastly of words.