Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

By R. A. Stewart

Dear Editor,

Adam Kirsch and his colleagues ably describe some of the forces that seem to inhibit us these days ("Ambition and Greatness: An Exchange," March 2005). I would point out something equally characteristic of our time, those whose plans are directly inimical to what most of us presumably value: the political rulers (it will hardly do to call them leaders) who are changing our nation from imperfect republic to secretive, militarized empire; the tera-corporations whose only value is ever-expanding profit; the narrow sectarians whose theocracy suborns the name and mocks the teachings of Christ. These people and organizations are utterly boundless in their ambition. They aim to reshape the world and are well on their way to doing so. Recalling a poet who certainly did not shrink from the ambition to be great, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity." I am not counseling hubris or solemnity. By no means let us forget to laugh, especially at ourselves. But I would have us reclaim our conviction, our passion, our intensity, even if it takes a leap of faith to do so. In these times, can we afford to indulge ourselves in an excess of modesty?

Originally Published: October 30th, 2005
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