that which is small is not small
Let me tell you about a twelfth-century Chinese poet named Yang Wan-li, one of the four masters of Southern Sung poetry. One day he gathered his disciples around him and addressed them in this fashion: "Now, what is poetry? If you say it is simply a matter of words, I will say, 'A good poet gets rid of words.' If you say it is simply a matter of meaning, I will say, 'A good poet gets rid of meaning.' But, you say, if words and meaning are gotten rid of, where is the poetry? To this I reply, 'Get rid of words and meaning and there is still poetry.'"Scholars have been wrestling with that test for centuries. I think that Yang is telling us that poetry is more than a product of human intelligence and craft. It is an intrinsic element of the beauty and mystery of existence, something we take in with the air we breathe. We take it in and then we give back some semblance of it in our art.