We live in a superficial, media-driven culture that often seems
uncomfortable with true depths of feeling. Indeed, it seems as if our
culture has become increasingly intolerant of that acute sorrow, that
intense mental anguish and deep remorse which may be defined as grief.
We want to medicate such sorrow away. We want to divide it into
recognizable stages so that grief can be labeled, tamed, and put
behind us. But poets have always celebrated grief as one of the
deepest human emotions. To grieve is to lament, to mourn, to let
sorrow inhabit one's very being.
Robert Frost liked to distinguish between grievances (complaints)
and griefs (sorrows). He even suggested that grievances, which are
propagandistic, should be restricted to prose, "leaving poetry
free to go its way in tears." Implicit in poetry is the notion
that we are deepened by heartbreaks, that we are not so much
diminished as enlarged by grief, by our refusal to vanish--to let
others vanish--without leaving a verbal record. Poetry is a stubborn
art. The poet is one who will not be reconciled, who is determined to
leave a trace in words, to transform oceanic depths of feeling into
the faithful nuances of art.