Very few politicians in our world have been major poets, but some of our best and worst poets are or have been lawyers. Wallace Stevens worked lifelong as legal VP for Hartford Accident and Indemnity but left a body of work loved, pondered over and written about continuously to this day. A course or two in poetry cannot automatically grant access to the heights. It takes a life-commitment, constant focus and steely effort.
It pains me to encounter pseudo-readers!–Mis-readers who can’t penetrate the meaning of texts by means of all the other things they’ve read or, unfortunately, didn’t read. It can take many years for one’s experience and education, whatever they were, to integrate, fuse together and add up. For some it hasn’t happened yet or may never happen. Many intelligent people of seemingly good education and background actually read poorly. Along with conventional people of ordinary learning they live in a world of superficial perception and unanalyzed ideas not their own. After college, they read little or nothing strenuously demanding. They grow only by accident. Bad reading can stem from readers’ prior misframed learnings that thwart fresh understanding like wrong switches thrown in a rail yard divert a train from correct destination.
Someone claims “poetry and politics don’t mix.” Isn’t this marvelously ingenuous?–Extremely impercipient! Politics essentially IS poetry, just as courtroom arguments rely on metaphoric depiction of cases as fitting into one category or another or as partaking of one “essence” or another. Murder or manslaughter; guilty or not; corruption or misunderstanding. Failure to understand text or speech is often deliberate. People may lie about what they understand or don’t understand. That’s part of the “poetics of politics” (which will lose a weak, novice reader entirely.) Ignorant people and novice readers usually believe themselves highly intelligent and original, though they may belong to sets of people as alike to each other as peas in a pod. They look and act somewhat individually but their minds work or malfunction in the same ways. Individualism and individuality are quite different. “Individualism” is graven as if in stone on the minds of many who are as non-individual as minnows schooled in a pool.
Another youthful writer appeals to us for “human respect for all” by attacking another writer he entirely fails to comprehend, for that writer’s “disrespect for faith, country, flag and just plain old ” whatever, as if no faith, country or flag ever deserved criticism or plain disrespect for rotten behavior or misrepresentation. Obviously, this other writer’s reasoning and attitude are quite beyond that young writer’s comprehension or willingness to face. He might do well in a Chilean hill-village with no newspaper or library, mining dangerously deep under the desert, eventually in need of world-wide rescue effort which his rich mind-owners care not to provide.
Politics and law rely not alone on what is already written but on explicit argument. The persuasiveness of argument depends on rhetorical factors which affect perception of facts, whatever they may be, in the way “represented reality” appears to make some things more important or less important than perhaps they should be. Good argument cuts through rhetoric to show facts in their true relation to us. With rhetoric come many elements from the domain of poetics. Techniques of comparison, identification, ranking, pacing and emphasis or strategic concealment. Such skills can show or hide truth. Such negative uses of knowledge, called Sophistry, have no place in law but intrude anyway, even in Supreme Court decisions. Politics reveals a continual struggle either to sweep away sophistries in favor of truth, each side hacking away at the other’s supposed fabrications, or to throw up fresh illusions of fact which often only compound wishes.
The absolutely most difficult thing for people to understand is writing that closely shows that the basis of their entire understanding of existence, and everything in it, is a low-grade compound of wishful illusions, religiously clung to. Just read again the Tea Party Manifesto. It reveals a dance troup with scarcely one toe on the ground, all floating off in a bubble of self-romaticized delusions about their three, fundamental principles which they really believe no one else understands better than they do. Overgrown children in the woods who try to lead their parents over the cliff’s edge into a bottomless Chasm of No Return. How briefly victorious the orphans will feel while they, themselves, also fall into the pit.