cover image Why Don’t We Say What We Mean? Essays Mostly About Poetry

Why Don’t We Say What We Mean? Essays Mostly About Poetry

Lawrence Raab. Tupelo, $16.95 trade paper (196p) ISBN 978-1-936797-76-9

Accomplished poet Raab (Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts) makes a persuasive argument for the value of ambiguity in poetry, celebrating an uncertainty or mystery that defies the easy application of meaning and lures the reader into “the divide between the unexplained and the inexplicable, a space that vibrates with the enigmatic, with what might be beyond our comprehension.” Fluent in a canonical poetic tradition reaching from Shakespeare to Dickinson to Frost, Raab sees poetry as a process of transformation in which structure provides a way of thinking and “how [a poem] moves might be what it means.” Serious and playful by turns, Raab examines the traditional tools of metaphor, starting with Aristotle, as well as the use of nonsense (exemplified here by Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky”), absurdity, obscurity, and surprise. He also contemplates dreams and ghosts in terms of Freud’s ideas about the uncanny, viewing them as conveyors of the “mysterious and significant.” As in the best teaching, Raab’s considerations sound personal, straightforward, and enormously precise. They prompt the reader to take “imaginative risks” and be “seduced into the process of thinking.”[em] (Dec.) [/em]