Notebook

Beyond the Trivial

In an insightful review of a book I think I’m unlikely to read, Rowan William provides a throw-away, elegant definition of poetry. ‘Poetry’, he says, ‘is language so constructed that it lets us see beyond the trivial, exploitative, weaponized uses of words that are deafeningly present around us.’

The word ‘weaponised’ is unexpected, but it is spot on. It recalls me to this morning’s Vigils reading from the Book of Hosea: ‘Provide yourself with words and come back to the Lord’ (14:2).

It is a great and urgent civilising task to redeem words that have been taken hostage for violent purposes, to liberate them and enable them to metamorphose into praise, the highest, noblest form of free expression.