I came across this article from The Guardian (June 18, 2010) and thought you might find it interesting.
From the article:
The Hungarian-born poet George Szirtes, who teaches poetry at the University of East Anglia, says poems try to capture a reality that is deeper than language. "You're trying to say: I know what this thing is called," he says. "It's called a chair, and that thing is a table. I've got this word 'chair' and I've got this word 'table', but there's something peculiar about this chair and table which using the words chair and table will not actually convey." Readers, he says, may race through novels because they want to know what happens, but they should look to inhabit poems. "Nobody reads a poem to find out what happens in the last line. They read the poem for the experience of travelling through it."
I ask Szirtes whether he thinks "What is poetry for?" is a valid question. To my surprise – because plenty of poets think it's an absurd question and that no art form should worry about its function – he believes it is far from academic. "It's a question that does preoccupy you the longer you do it," he says. "When you first do it, you never ask that question. But as time goes on, you begin to be conscious of it. My sense now is that when people begin to speak, when language develops, there are two essential instincts: one of the instincts says, 'What is this?'; the other one says, 'So what happens?' So what happens is the beginning of syntax, of storytelling. The other feeling, where you are confronted by some aspect of reality for which language is always inadequate, is the instinct that goes into poetry." Poetry, he suggests, "begins with a cry" – of anguish, fear or frustration. Szirtes quotes Emily Dickinson's maxim that "a poem is a house that tries to be haunted". A poem should not deliver all its secrets at once, if ever; it is not there to be solved.