Guy N. Pocock on the function(s) of poetry (1920)

Like Prufrock never happened…

…poets write [poetry] because they have a keener imaginative insight into the real significance of things than most men; and besides they are able to use words in such wonderful fashion as to conjure up for us a sense of beauty or power, the existence of which we had not suspected, or only vaguely, ‘at the back of our minds.’ This, primarily, is what poetry is ‘for.’

But a poem need not necessarily tell a story, like Enoch Arden; nor arouse patriotic zeal, as in Scots wha hae wi’ Wallace bled; nor paint a scene with wonderful words; nor call forth our pity or anger. It may do all these things, and more. But there is something else it can do. It can transport us into another world–a world outside Space and Time altogether.

This world of Fancy, and Romance, and Imagination lies all around us, and quite close to us, but is often just out of reach until the poet supplies the key.[…]

The people who inhabit this world are not real people; they need not think or act like real people; and the scenes need not be very like anything we know in experience. It is all a blend between what the poet had in his own mind, and what he stimulates in ours when we read as poetically as we can. And then our experience of this world of Fancy is real enough.

— Guy N. Pocock (editor) in Modern Poetry (1920)

Edited to add: I didn’t realise that Fancy was being used so late, this all feels like it could have been written many decades earlier, though I wonder if “outside Space and Time” is echoing the terminology of Einstein’s relativity.

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