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speaking of the poet (1951) Editors’ Note: This essay, addressing West’s view of the poet’s role in society, appeared as an introduction to his sixth collection, The Road Is Rocky. This volume of poetry was published by New York–based New Christian Books in 1951. Speaking of the poet—is he not a double man? Is he not a man of two selves, who lives with the people and of the people, and the man who lives alone? Refining, developing, hammering out inside himself the thing he sees in the people, the poet brings out its beauty, or he makes it ugly. It’s the thing inside the people the poet brings out. How can the poet speak when he has not walked with the people, when he has not been inside their hearts? And how can the poet sing whose own heart has not been broken? Poetry will come from the South—and songs to sing.Our land is more than materialism and greed! It will come—up from the sub-soil of folk life, from the broken lives and hearts and troubled souls. And the poet himself will move among the broken pieces scattered in the darkness,and his voice will call—in trouble—not always sure, except of hope, of faith and hope. The poet will piece the torn old scraps together, and there’ll be beauty, there’ll be hope and a way toward the future. No dark voice of despair is the people’s poet! Even the twisted old pieces will shed beauty, the beauty of human dignity, of being part of a person. But how can the poet speak if he has not been inside the heart of the people , if he has not lived there, if his own heart has not been broken? For the poet takes upon himself the hurt of other men, the ache of other hearts. 01.Prose.1-blnk 96/West 12/2/03, 11:48 AM 50 ...


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