Poet Rachel Zucker, responding to the Huffington Post’s question Is there such a thing as “truth” in a poem? (A good question to consider at the end of this month…er…6 months of poetry) I’m sure there are those who would vehemently disagree with her answer. They might think she’s wrong to answer in the affirmative at all, or perhaps they would argue that her response is not, in fact, an affirmative in any important sense. But I like what she says–I think it does affirm something important about poetry’s relationship to truth–and I like her poetry (see one of her poems on my friend’s poetry blog, here).
“Your question…inspired me to (finally) look up the word “truth” and I’m glad I did. I see that truth is defined as “the body of real things, events, and facts” or “fidelity to an original” or (a more archaic definition) “sincerity in action, character, and utterance” so yes, I’d say there is such a thing as “truth in a poem.” A poem isn’t an egg (it doesn’t have a body or thing-ness the way other “real things” do), but a poem can strive to be faithful to the original (experience) and certainly a poem can be sincere. A poem is never going to be a copy of the real world or a mirror–it’s always a translation of experience and another experience in and of itself. Even seemingly unaltered photographs are composed and exposed, developed and printed in ways that mediate “the body of real things” but, yes, I think there is truth in poetry. Truth in the sense of an attempt, not an absolute.”
~ Rachel Zucker