The Deconstructive Lyric

"Poetry is certainly something more than good sense, but it must be good sense . . .
just as a palace is more than a house, but it must be a house."

—Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Margaret Atwood writes in her poem "Mushrooms":

Here is the handful

of shadow I have brought back to you,

this decay, this hope,

this mouth-

ful of dirt, this poetry.

Also in Selected Poems II, in "Five Poems for Grandmothers": "I make this charm / from nothing but paper; which is good / for exactly nothing." And in "Two-Headed Poems": "This is not a debate / but a duet / with two deaf singers."

Then, one might think, each singer may rejoice in his own singing, however much he mangles the tune, however inept the words, since he does not hear a thing. The singers hear nothing, mean little, and sing long. Some of the singers, with Heideggerian fervor, really mean nothing. Really, if there were a really. As Atwood puts it in "Notes Toward a Poem That Can Never Be Written": "this is the place that will finally defeat you / where the word why shrivels and empties / itself. This is...

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