|Waterdrop by Zen|
The Psalms are poems, and poems have a meaning---although the poet has no obligation to make his meaning immediately clear to anyone who does not want to make an effort to discover it. But to say that poems have meaning is not to say that they must necessarily convey practical information or an explicit message. In poetry, words are charged with meaning in a far different way than are the words in a piece of scientific prose. The words of a poem are not merely the signs of concepts: they are also rich in affective and spiritual associations.
The poet uses words not merely to make declarations, statements of fact. That is usually the last thing that concerns him. He seeks above all to put words together in such a way that they exercise a mysterious and vital reactivity among themselves, and so release their secret content of associations to produce in the reader an experience that enriches the depths of his spirit in a manner quite unique. A good poem induces an experience that could not be produced by any other combination of words. It is therefore an entity that stands by itself, graced with an individuality that marks it off from every other work of art. Like all great works of art, true poems seem to live by a life entirely their own.
What we must seek in a poem is therefore not an accidental reference to something outside itself: we must seek this inner principle of individuality and of life which is its soul, or 'form.' What the poem actually 'means' can only be summed up in the whole content of poetic experience which it is capable of producing in the reader. This total poetic experience is what the poet is trying to communicate to the rest of the world (excerpted from Literary Essays "Poetry, Symbolism, and Typology, 1953) pg 84-85Merton's writing is full of these gems and I'm currently on the chapter about other writers. He seems to have had a great fondness for Boris Pasternak and his writings and it's making me want to move Dr. Zhivago up in the stack and see if I appreciate his writing as much as Merton did. Back to my literary wanderings.