Texas Tech University

Truth and Poetry

David Yezzi

Associate Professor, The Writing Seminars, The Johns Hopkins University.

Poetry is the most precise tool we have in language for communicating the emotions connected with a human experience, yet it can be a poor tool for communicating facts. As William Carlos Williams wrote (in a poem it must be noted!): "It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day for lack / of what is found there." What is the truth in poetry? How is that truth communicated? What difference, if any, can the truth in poetry make to how we live?

David Yezzi's books of poetry include The Hidden Model, Azores (a Slate magazine best book of the year), and, most recently, Birds of the Air, about which The New York Times wrote: “Yezzi's inventive ventriloquism convincingly modulates his rhythms, recording natural speech in measured lines. . . . Not yet 50, Yezzi ranks among our best formalists.” He is the editor of The Swallow Anthology of New American Poets, foreword by J. D. McClatchy, and is currently writing a biography of the poet Anthony Hecht for St. Martin's Press. He is an associate professor in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins and director of The Baltimore Poets Theater. He earned a B.F.A in theater from Carnegie Mellon and an M.F.A. in poetry from Columbia University.

The Institute for the Study of Western Civilization