Poetry takes as its purview what is deeply felt and is essentially unsayable; that is the paradox on which the poem necessarily turns.
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:
On the other hand rasa is something that one cannot dream of expressing by the literal sense. It does not fall within workday expression. It is rather of a form that must be tasted by an act of blissful relishing on the part of a delicate mind through the stimulation of previously deposited memory elements . . . beautiful because of their appeal to the heart. . . . The suggesting of such a sense is called rasadhvaniand is found to operate only in poetry. This in a strict sense is the soul of poetry. (Source: The Dhvanyāloka of Ānandavardhana with the Locana of Abhinavagupta, Harvard University Press, 1990)
While poetry is bound to the sensorium, to the sensual powers of bodily being, to memory that draws its power from feelings heightened by the senses, it is also bound to place. It is in place that we locate ourselves, mark ourselves in relation with others; it is in place that we survive. But what becomes of the past when place is torn away, when the sensorium is radically displaced, and when exile or dislocation marks out the limits of existence?