The need to defend and define poetry. When we know very well it speaks for itself, must speak for itself.
I've turned again this morning to Adam Zagajewski's Defense of Ardor. In the title essay, he asks, "But what is poetry? Anyone who looks through the catalogue of large libraries will find a fair number of variations upon the 'defense of poetry.' It's almost a separate literary genre, with its own venerable tradition....At the same time, though, it is a desperate genre, with something panic-stricken about it. The titles themselves, which struggle to convince us of poetry's 'necessity,' vitality, indispensability, sound nonetheless suspiciously close to capitulation. If you have to insist so strenuously....."
He goes on:
"Fortunately, we don't know precisely what poetry is, and we shouldn't try to figure it out analytically."
"We need poetry just as we need beauty (although I hear there are European countries in which the is last word is strictly forbidden). Beauty isn't only for aesthetes; beauty is for anyone who seeks a serious road. It is a summons, a promise, if not of happiness, as Stendhal hoped, then of a great and endless journey."
In another essay, he asks, "We are so prosaic, so ordinary. Do we even deserve poetry?"
Maybe not, maybe not, but we do need it, we who seek a serious road.
He quotes Maupassant in yet another essay,
"From time to time I experience strange, intense, short-lived visions of beauty, an unfamiliar, elusive, barely perceptible beauty that surfaces in certain words or landscapes, certain colourations of the world, certain moments... I'm not able to describe or communicate it, I can't express it or portray it. I save these moments for myself... I have no other reason for continuing, no other cause for keeping on...."
And this too, we need, these short-lived visions of beauty that arise unexpectedly, those moments we save for ourselves.
Certainly we don't deserve them, but how thankful we are when they arrive.