Poetry takes as its purview what is deeply felt and is essentially unsayable; that is the paradox on which the poem necessarily turns. A poet uses language as a painter uses color, a primary material out of which to make art. But language that is used all the time and all around us—in sound bites, advertisements, political rhetoric, newsprint—needs to be rinsed free so that it can be used as the stuff of art.
The poem in its act of meaning-making turns away from the literal, its truth bound to what can be evoked. And evocation is sparked by memory. Abhinavagupta (ca. 950–1020 ce) realized this clearly. In his reflections, he writes of how poetry—far from dealing with the literal—reaches into what lies in memory, in memory fragments. It is in this way that rasa, the quick of aesthetic pleasure, is reached: