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'Poetry is necessary'

29 October 2007

'A poem is direct, and charged with energy. Its language is not clichéd nor second-hand. Its meaning, whether force or revelation, or slow truth, is something we can actually use. Poems are among the most useful things invented, along with rubber boots and sharp knives. It you are going to wade through the world's rubbish, and know what to cut out and what to open up - perhaps even what to kill off - then poetry is necessary.

A poem generates heat. The friction of the language causes the words to spark and fire. You can warm your hands at a poem; you can be consumed by it. It is, as Adrienne Rich puts it, "wood with a gift for burning".

Jeanette Winterson in The Times