DRMacIver's Notebook

The edge of the familiar

The edge of the familiar

I’m reading “Why Poetry?” by Zapruder.

Why why poetry? Well, why not?

“I don’t know what writers of stories and novels and essays eventually discover for themselves, but I can say that sooner or later poets figure out there are no new ideas, only the same old ones”, he says.

He is wrong. This is a poet’s problem. The ideas are there, but you cannot do poetry to them.

We are awash in new ideas, if we let ourselves listen for them. Generally we do not.

Zapruder later cites Shklovsky, “Art as technique”.

Shklovsky talks about “defamiliarization”, or as Zapruder prefers, “strangeifying”. The role of art is to trace the contours of the familiar, drawing your attention to it in ways that make it strange.

Well, if that’s what you’re doing, how could you have new ideas?

How can you strangeify that which is already strange to you?

I think, perhaps, the role of art can never be to create the new. It shows us what is already there, in a new light, allowing us to imagine that it could be different.

It draws you to the very edge of the familiar, and then tells you: Here we are. This is as far as I can take you. The rest is up to you.