Brain Pickings – An inventory of the meaningful life.

Power and Tenderness: Robert Penn Warren on Democracy, Art, and the Integrity of the Self

“[Art] is the process by which, in imagining itself and the relation of individuals to one another and to it, a society comes to understand itself, and by understanding, discover its possibilities of growth.”

Power and Tenderness: Robert Penn Warren on Democracy, Art, and the Integrity of the Self

“The poets (by which I mean all artists),” James Baldwin wrote in his exquisite 1962 meditation on the artist’s role in society“are finally the only people who know the truth about us. Soldiers don’t. Statesmen don’t. Priests don’t. Union leaders don’t. Only poets.”

More than a decade later, the Pulitzer-winning poet, novelist, and literary critic Robert Penn Warren (April 24, 1905–September 15, 1989) enriched and affirmed this notion when he was selected to deliver the annual Jefferson Lecture, founded by the National Endowment for the Humanities as “the highest honor the federal government confers for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.” Warren’s lecture was eventually adapted into the slim, potent 1975 book Democracy and Poetry (public library) — an insightful, ennobling, and increasingly timely perspective as we turn to poetry as protest and redemption.

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