Poetry Corner

by Arthur Mampel

Richard Hugo was a northwest poet who lived a couple miles from our door. There is a place in Seattle where artists, authors, poets and English majors come to learn from each other. It is named after the poet, Richard Hugo. I’ve only been to the Hugo House twice since its inception, but it has had—through word of mouth and newsletter—an indirect influence on me. One influence came from Hugo’s book, “Triggering Town.” In his book, Hugo wrote, “I caution against information because once language exists only to convey information, it is dying.” Living, as we do, in a world where information rains down daily like a fierce storm, it raises the question: Is our language in danger of dying? Constant information coming to us from the evening news, periodicals, radio, television, the political world and even science, may indeed be deadly, because language that only informs the mind can clutter the heart with facts and technology, void of life and meaning. I think Emily Dickinson was right when she said, “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant--/ Success in Circuit lies/ Too bright for our infirm Delight/ The truth’s superb surprise/ As lightening to the children eased/ With explanation kind/ The Truth must dazzle gradually/ Or every man be blind--” Poetry conveys truth at a slant, while the constant flow of factual information is too direct and can overwhelm the meaning of truth. Information without metaphor or poetry is “too bright for our infirm delight.”

Arthur Mampel in Seattle and is Pietisten's poet laureate.

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