There is another world, but it is inside this one. These words serve as a gateway to numerous poetic slowings. Through these words, attributed to Paul Éluard, we move into Suzanne Buffam’s collection of poems The Irrationalist, in which she writes “There is no way to know how many beans are in the jar without removing them one by one” (11). This image of precision is also one of care, attentive to this world and slowing into it.
The consolations of art are limited. As are we. It is supreme arrogance to imagine otherwise. We must, nonetheless, swell these limits, make them swollen to the point, even, of suffering. This is the consolation of art – messy consolation though it sounds. Simone Weil tells us, “It is an act of cowardice to seek from (or wish to give) the people we love any other consolation than that which works of art give us” (65). It is brave, then, to insist on attending acutely to that art – and the everything else it tries to get at – what is unsayable and yet worth attention. This work is the hard stuff of art.
The hard work of the mind considering its attention – its ethical demands – is poetry’s task.