Why Poetry? or, Why Write At All? I write to get real. Language is our imagination’s finest invention: they are one. But words are abstractions: we need to imagine what they express. The word evokes an image; the image lights up its meaning. To think well is to imagine well. Thinkers, scientists, artists, inventors are men and women of lively imagination. The poem—in fact, any literary or creative work—is constituted by language and imagination working in concert. The imagination makes real to the mind what the mind abstracts from our consciousness of reality. What we call our world is only our human reality: we have no other. Without language, we could not make sense of it because our thoughts and feelings would have no medium. We would have no memory, no history, no culture, no civilization. The poem is to live for its subject or theme is a human experience: mind’s import, heart’s burden. The writer as artist is a shaper of language. He finds his own path through the lexical wilderness of a given historical language and makes his own clearing there. The ground of language which he shapes is a people’s culture through their history. Himself shaped by language, one is spoken for, but may, in his own time, speak back and clarify, even modify, a given outlook. Any language then (Tagalog, English), given an adequate mastery of it, can shape one’s sense of country. Our literature then, wrought from (rather than written in) whatever language is our people’s memory. A country is only as strong as her people’s memory, imagination’s heartland. One’s country (like nation, an abstraction) is what one’s imagination owes its allegiance to.
1. Philippine poetry (English).