Recently I have been scrolling through the “Words of Wisdom” at the bottom of the Shenandoah website (an activity I recommend with enthusiasm), and I came across a couple ideas that sparked my interest. The first is a quote from Logan Pearsall Smith: “What I like in a good author is not what he says but what he whispers.” The other excerpt, which I find to be more profound, comes from Louise Gluck’s essay on poetry entitled “Disruption, Hesitation, Silence.” Gluck writes “The unsaid, for me, exerts great power: I often wish an entire poem could be made in this vocabulary.”
Both these writers assert that perhaps a hidden theme or a vague notion can be the most unsettling part of the written word. This theory immediatly draws my memory to Percy Shelley’s poem, “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty,” which starts out, “The awful shadow of some unseen Power/Floats though unseen amongst us.” This unidentifiable power, Shelley insists, is, “Dear, and yet dearer for its mystery.” In this first stanza, Shelley demonstrates that poetry about a vague subject can still evoke vast concepts (and chills) in the reader.
Does a poets lack of exactititude add to a poems effect? Is there not something to be said of beautifully descriptive poetry? I will save you the lengthy essay that could ensue and instead leave you with the unsaid.