Poetry's Secret Truth

Abstract

Poetry, it is said, can reveal truth. Yet despite the best efforts of philosophers and poets to describe this truth, very few understand what kinds of truth poetry can convey.* One fact seems clear: only a few of the truths of poetry can be captured equally well in prose. Poetry also conveys truths of a different kind — truths that seem to exist on a level entirely different level from that of ordinary, factual truth. Some poems try to teach moral or practical lessons that also could be stated in prose.* But this is not the kind of truth that puzzles philosophers and critics. Poetry also can tell another kind of truth — a truth that may be mystifying to scholars, but that is well known to anyone who becomes acquainted with poetry in an intimate way. This kind of truth cannot be spoken of or contemplated on the same terms as ordinary fact. What is the nature of this strange, yet familiar kind of knowledge that poetry can bring to the human mind?

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