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Terreson Profile
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Truth


On another poetry board I was not too long ago taken to task for a certain liberty taken with a poem. The complaint involved the poem's character to whom, as author, I impart feelings and thoughts, just the stuff of her interior life. The criticism is that, since I am not the character, I am not allowed to imagine what she might think and feel and then represent the same as truth.

I have a relative who is a teacher and a professional historian. He has been at his profession for over forty years. Recently he has trained his skills on our family, looking especially to tell the story of its women, and going back to the late 19th C. He knows his stuff and he knows how to unearth information found in various public and private records. He also devotes himself to conducting interviews with older relatives.

Recently he told me that both his research into the family lore and his chronicling of it has brought him to a realization about truth. He says he has decided there are two kinds of truth. There is accuracy and there is authenticity. Accuracy he finds in court records and family Bibles. Authenticity he finds by asking himself a set of questions: is it in keeping with her character to have said thus and such? Do her actions bear out entertaining certain thoughts and feelings?

This fascinates me, that there are possibly two classes of truth. Especially since there could be a certain limitation to accuracy that authenticity looks to redress. What the first cannot speak to, which is character and perhaps motive, the second can. It isn't that I figure this is any great revelation. It seems to me that all the arts devote themselves to authenticity in one form or another. Not just novelists, say, but painters and musicians too. I might even go a step further and wonder if art that limits itself to accuracy only is art at all. Maybe the business of art could be, at least in part, to body out the interstice between coordinates. Now there is something to think about.

Tere
Oct/17/2008, 12:07 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
ChrisD1 Profile
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Re: Truth


Tere,

The difference between accuracy and authenticity
reminds me of your other thread--where you compare "the act of naming" to the "act of poetry" which "gets us inside the thing."

I don't think readers look to poetry for factual
or historical accuracy, so the argument that readers are somehow ill served by attributions
of motive and thought just never made much sense
to me. But authenticity, now that's another story.

Chris
Oct/18/2008, 4:30 pm Link to this post Send Email to ChrisD1   Send PM to ChrisD1
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: Truth


You are right, Chrisfriend. Authenticity is in fact the other story, certainly the more subtle and layered story, may even be the story raising up feeling-truth. It saddens me when treating with poets who bring to poetry measurements foreign to poetry's instinct. And I guess I am convinced that poetry in fact expresses its own insistent instinct, what does not trade in the intellect or in programs, agendas, or platforms. When it comes to poetry, to all the arts actually, theory can be a killer.

Tere
Oct/18/2008, 6:51 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 


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