26 March 2009

Jan Clausen

[from Jan Clausen's essay "The Political Morality of Freedom" from her Books & Life, Ohio State University, 1989]

I was violently attacked when I was jogging near Prospect Park in Brooklyn, by a man who dragged me into the park and started choking me, and I was struggling and as all this was going on, I heard in my head lines from the Susan Griffin poem "Breviary," lines which go, "She fought / him off and she lived." It's about a woman who's attacked by a man who stabs her repeatedly, and there's this line, "She fought / him off and she lived." And I'm not saying I was struggling in that situation because that poem came to me, but I thought afterwards, you know, in fact I did struggle and the man did run away. And that poem was there. And it was a fascinating example to me of how something can get embedded in your consciousness, how poetry might be there working under the surface in all kinds of situations you would never anticipate. I wonder what if I'd only had Yeats's poem that goes, "Did she put on his knowledge with his power / Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?" to fall back on.

And I'm somebody who inveighs against the idea that poetry is useful. But since this experience I'm willing to concede that it may in face be useful on occasion. Maybe we simply can't count on it to be useful. We don't know when it will be.

Books & Life

1 comment:

  1. Poetry and Lyrics narrate my life too. I often hear T.S. Eliot saying "These are private words addressed to you in public" when I am online.