Kierkegaard on poetry…

brazen bull

Soren Kierkegaard had this way of throwing stories into the middle of his philosophising. Here is one of them;

What is a poet?

An unhappy man who in his heart harbours a deep anguish, but whose lips are so fashioned that the moans and cries which pass over them are transformed into ravishing music.

His fate is like that of the unfortunate victims whom the tyrant Phalaris imprisoned in a brazen bull, and slowly tortured over a steady fire; their cries could not reach the tyrant’s ears so as to strike terror into his heart; when they reached his ears they sounded like sweet music.

And men crowd around the poet and say to him, “Sing for us soon again”—which is as much as to say, “May new sufferings torment your soul, but may your lips be fashioned as before; for the cries would only distress us, but the music, the music, is delightful.

Kierkegaard is describing something that most familiar- art arising from introspection, sensitivity, dysfunction, hurt. Art that does not heal, but rather is a plaster over an open wound.

Poetry like this has no choice but to be written. You might as well tell a cut to stop bleeding.


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