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Poems for transforming sorrow

By Harriet Staff

The University of Arizona Poetry Center has posted three poems that represent why “people turn to poetry in times of crisis.” Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin, whose poem To the New Year University of Arizona President Robert Shelton read at a memorial for the victims of the January 8th shooting in Tucson,  believes that poetry fills that void “because it comes closer than any other art form to addressing what cannot be said. In expressing the inexpressible poetry remains close to the origins of language.” The other poems include Richard Shelton’s I Have No Wings and Palace of Pearls by Jane Miller, known for teaching her students that “the function of art is the transformation of sorrow, and also the transformation of consciousness.”

According to UA Creative Writing Professor Jane Miller, “poetry, especially from such a humane and gentle voice as W. S. Merwin’s, awakens us with the first light and quiet of beginnings. From there, a place nearly like a dream, poems describe, and also transform, the landscape of our inner and outer lives. We are helped with our first steps out of ignorance toward consciousness, from innocence to experience. A great poet such as Merwin will translate universal feelings into language for us precisely, with the roots of words always in mind. Such elemental songs dignify existence and act as a guide, like Virgil, toward illumination.”

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Posted in Poetry News on Friday, January 14th, 2011 by Harriet Staff.