A good poem always has some entrance into and reminder of the fact that genuine experience is unexpected. A good poem shocks us awake, one way or another — through its beauty, its insight, its music; it shakes or seduces the reader out of the common gaze and into a genuine looking. It breaks the sleepwalking habit in our eyes, in our ears, in our mouths, and sets us adrift in a small raft under a vast night-sky of stars. We feel ourselves moving, too, above a vast, cold-streaming current carrying inner-lit sea creatures, tangles of kelp strands, fishes. Thus we learn the deep clefts of the mid-ocean land-rifts; thus the wave-blanketed mountains rise up before us as islands, a new habitation for heart and mind . . . We depart the known ease in order to arrive somewhere other than where we were. We travel by poem, as by any other means, in order to see for ourselves more than was seen.
~ Jane Hirshfield, “The Shock of Good Poetry,”
The Writer, June 1999.