Festival Internacional de Poesía de Medellín

Few remarks on the Meaning o Poetry in the Present-Day World

By Sigurdur Pálsson for Prometeo

To start with, it is good to remember that poetry is made with language.

More than any other literary text, poetry uses the ability of language that is called connotation - the ability of language to say more than one thing at the same time, in the same line, in few words, in a condensed manner.

There is more than one and only one meaning in a poem, poetry is always searching, always hesitating (a “prolonged hesitation between sound and sense”, said Paul Valéry) – always using the connotative characteristics of language.

This is the poetical use of language; we could call it the poetical dimension of language. And it concerns not only the writing of a poem but also (and this is very important) the reading of a poem. (Or listening to a poem.)

And the poetical dimension of language must be kept alive and defended.

Why is that important? I think it is important because it fights all kinds of one-sidedness, all kinds of unilateral thinking. Language and the use of language is a battle-field. All kinds of powers, financial, ideological and political powers are trying all the time to impose their one-dimensional meaning to words, chosen once and for all.

A poetical text, a poem, opens up this unilateral use of language, it is an important act of resistance to those powers that try to abuse language, try to impose their view, their meaning to the words, to the language.

And a poem is also very important because it helps the reader (or the listener) to become a creative user of language.

And that is the ultimate consequence of the poetical dimension of language: It helps to build a democratic community, it helps to build a multi-dimensional society.

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