Jim Harrison on the Mysterious Appeal of Good Poetry

Good poetry’s appeal is more mysterious. I can remember whole lines of Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake, just because of the beauty of Joyce’s use of language. Roethke’s the same way. These lines stick with you for aesthetic reasons. It’s like you remember songs. You recreate their music in your mind. A poem’s rhythm shouldn’t read like the ticking of a box. All this occurs in a realm beyond the intellect. Why is Mozart better than anybody else? There’s no logical reason. The same thing’s true in writing. Some people just have the gift. I can recognize that quality when I see it on the page. You know when you’ve brought it off. It’s a bit like Matthew Arnold’s saying that “A good poet can make the skin of your neck prickle.” But there’s no logical response to it.

'It Has to Come to You', Why Jim Harrison Writes Patiently, The Atlantic