1. Since poetry is a partnership
between poet and reader, what the poet meant is not what the poem
2. The image always means more than the
explanation, making any explanation by the poet reductive.
3. Explanations by those other than the poet,
however, may be enriching because they are not authoritative.
4. What, then, is a reader to do when faced with an
intriguing passage that seems obscure? First, search her own mind
and heart; second, search the minds and hearts of others through
reading and conversation; third, treat the explanation of any
poet foolish enough to make one with the same attention given to
that of any informed reader; fourth, always be aware that the
fault may be with the poet and not with the reader.
5. What, then, is a poet to do, having written a
passage that many readers find obscure? First, consider whether
the passage is unnecessarily obscure, and, if so, revise it;
second, if the passage is richly obscure, have faith in your
readers; third, if neither of the first two suggestions works,
consider another vocation.
6. The only thing a poet should even consider
explaining is what he never should have written in the first