What does poetry have to do with the serious financial havoc the world has been enduring? Does anyone have time to consider a confection of art — spun from the imagination — while we face the chilling reality of lost homes, tattered businesses, or a compromised future? “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”
We seem to be able to do so little against the loss and fear and panic. Yet poetry’s realm is precisely here — in the emotional center, where desire and terror and hope and dread converge without easy answers.
The complex world of finance is one that humans invented, and it is a world that is incomprehensible to many people — yet it too was first made in the imagination. The response to the current distress will also be forged in our collective imagination. Those of us who believe in the economy of words look to poetry to give shape to inchoate anxieties.
The staff at the Academy of American Poets has assembled a selection of poems on Poets.org that we each have turned to during the recent confusion, and we hope they will open the possibility of a different kind of reflection in the fog of uncertainty. Poetry can provide solace, give voice to despair, restore optimism, or simply remind us of our common connection through words. As William Faulkner said in his Nobel speech, “The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”
Executive Director, Academy of American Poets