I’ve been reading Winifred Nowottny’s chapter on ambiguity in The Language Poet’s Use. It’s fantastic and explains the nature of poetry’s unstatable side; which brings me to Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” which I have long used as a textbook example of how not to read a poem because most people think it a treatise on independent decision, the profound good of not following the mob, when in fact it is filled with assertions and counter-assertions enough to perplex even the logician. I have challenged many seminars with explaining the poem to me after I have suffered the pain of explaining it to them.
I here concede that while I am correct in correcting students’ readings of the poem, I have failed in my reading of it as well in that I have omitted the truth that the poem leads us to a sense of unstated and unstatable meaning. Despite understanding the briar patch of contradiction the poem is it remains inspirational and to many, inspired, to others and even the scholarly perplexity of it leaves the professor moved as are the poor readers who cannot see the tormenting tension in it. The experience it gives those who want to get off the common path is no less valid than my own prior over-intellectualization of the poem.
Good poetry inevitably leads to an unstatable impact that can only be explained so far and the rest , the poem’s essence, cannot be stated. All art aspires to the unstatable. Poetry’s difficulty is that it uses words, a written/spoken medium that must transcend itself and translate itself into the unstatable, the un-sayable.
So long for now.