Exceeding itself, the language participates

Baxter Street (The Act Of Reading) ©MAIERMOUL
Baxter Street (The Act Of Reading) ©MAIERMOUL

For the poem’s mission is not to assert the incomprehensible distance of the stars, but to make us feel the incomprehensible distance between ourselves and what appears most near to us.

There is no relation more harrowing and more inexplicable than the relation with whatever is plainly in front of our faces.

The poem does not simply explain these terms to us, it places us in a particular relation to the image it renders, and the act of reading the poem is the process of coming to inhabit that relation.

By exceeding itself, the language of the poem participates in the conjuring of infinitude, leading us to conclusions we could not have predicted readily at the beginning of the poem.

– James Longenbach, The Virtues of Poetry