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The Humanities Conference 2003

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How Poetry Saves Us: The Relevance of Poetry in the Modern World

Carole Langille.

The American poet Charles Simic said."The lyric poem is often a scandalous assertion that the private is public, that the local is universal, that the ephemeral is eternal. And it happens. The poets turn out to be right. This is what the philosophers cannot forgive the poets." I would like
to quote several poets, including Neruda, Stanley Kunitz, Ovtavio Paz, Rilke, regarding
what poetry means to them. I would also like to give a brief poetry reading. Enclosed is one of the poems I would like to read:


Fear goes from the famished
to the famished and has a voice like a sheet of rain descending.
I hear it like waves smacking hard
against a vessel. I know now
I'll never board the ship that sails in my name, or begin the journey
I was meant for.
We have the same name, you and I. You too have felt like a ghost

remembering what it was like
to be a person.
But the blood. I never knew anything could bleed this much.

How can I describe it? Because I can't help but approach,
again and again, the same inevitable situation. What he did. What I did.
The lands that burn between us.

My legs his tongue my hair his fingers. The truth is,
his body does not press against me more heavily
than the walls that circle this city,
a city from which I remain outside.

Keep what I've written, would you? And my jewels.
Who knows when I'll get home again. Though I'd like to believe, as you say,
I'm not as far away as I think.

Your voice is like your brother's
who held me so close
when he turned his head
his lips brushed my shoulder.

When I hear it I remember
a joy that stayed with me a long time before it drained away.
People love? Perhaps. You say, if only I could hear

who calls my name
and how haunting the sound,
like a lance piercing the air.
Too clearly, I hear. I hear.

Carole Langille


Carole Langille  (Canada)
Nova Scotia College of Art and Design
Nova Scotia College of Art and Design

I am a Canadian poet
and have just published
my third book. My second
book of poems, "In Cannon
Cave" was nominated
for a Governor General's
Award and the Atlantic Poetry Prize.

  • Poetry
  • Relevance in modern times
Person as Subject
  • Rilke, Naruda, Kunitz, Simic

(30 min Conference Paper, English)