I don’t think poetry is necessarily after clarity, and I certainly never expect accuracy. I prefer a little slack between language and meaning, like the slack we find between language and the world itself.
Speech remains supple through constant blurring of the boundaries of received definitions. A word means this today then, maybe, a shade of that tomorrow. The cognates branch and fan out, and dialects accrete like silt over the bedrock. “The Maker of this earth but patented a leaf.”
Writing ossifies this process, of course — which is, you know, not entirely a bad thing; we all need good, strong bones.
Words become things, things become words again, and distinctions follow distinctions.
(From the archives. Originally posted: 2004-10-12)