The British poet Nigel Ford observes, "The propagandist’s aim is to win the argument. The poet’s aim, and the Christian’s aim, is to tell the truth and indeed, to shame the devil" (124). In Ford’s vision, telling the truth poetically is a fully-orbed wisdom. There is no need to reiterate here what was covered under "Distinctions" above, but along with that sense of writing contextually, dramatically, and complexly, we need to explore where that truth resides and how it is discovered.

Cairns suggests that a poet writes to discover not simply to teach: "[S]he must realize that she makes art in order to find out what she doesn’t know—[. . .I]t is a calling to a lifetime of toil, and its purpose is, primarily, to make the artist a better person" ("It’s Not Just You"). Rod Jellema passionately concurs:

You have to know right away that poetry is not eloquence or decoration or a nice way of saying things. It is a way of seeing, a way of discovering perceptions, moments of awareness that were not there before. The poem is the body of a different kind of "knowing," a kind of awareness that the conscious intellect by itself cannot get to. But the poem is also the process of its own little discovery; it leaves its footprints; the reader can follow the creative process step by step, feeling the swerves and leaps and undertones and soundings and strange connections in the language that got the poet’s imagination into that unified awareness, that little incarnation, that poem. [. . .] The poem is a thousand times closer to the concerto or the painting than it is to the sermon, speech, article, editorial, or discussion. (330)

The finished product of poetry has its own process embedded in its words. For example, consider Denise Levertov’s poem " Flickering Mind":

Lord, not you,
it is I who am absent.
At first
belief was a joy I kept in secret,
stealing alone
into sacred places:
a quick glance, and away—and back,
[. . . .]
I stop
to think about you, and my mind
at once
like a minnow darts away
[. . . .]
Not you,
It is I am absent. (1-8, 12-15, 23-24)

The shape of Levertov’s poem flickers in much the way that her mind does. The lines are both present and absent in the way her own consciousness of God twitters in and out of focus. The poem’s structure and movement reveal what Levertov has come to understand about her own spirituality. She speaks simultaneously of the truth about herself that she has discovered and the conditions that make discovery so hard.

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"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding