“Film is an Empathy Machine, Poetry is a What Machine?”

I keep coming back to our in-class exercise prompt Wednesday: “Film is an empathy machine, poetry is a what machine?” I really didn’t grasp it then (“reverse-engineer code,” what?) and I still don’t know, but that question still bugs me.

I might be off the mark entirely, but the only real answer I can come up for that- what poetry can do where film, prose, painting can’t as easily- is capturing and naming the nuance of stream of consciousness. I feel poetry comes close to representing half-thoughts and emotions that you don’t fully have a grasp on in that moment, something indescribable that you have to come back to later and process/preserve in a vignette or a collage. With visual mediums it’s difficult to express a stream of thought itself, you have to dance around it. The artist/director is forced to show the viewer the something concrete, outward expressions, the secondary manifestations, the shadows cast, and a lot thought is lost in that. Music is much better at conveying emotion, but the lyrics often have to be sheared down to fit the rhythm. Prose is also incredibly effective for illustrating that stream of thought, but it often dips into poetic devices in doing so. And going back to our earlier discussions, I remember when asked “who are your poems for?” most of the answers were along the lines of “for me alone.” The poem for the author alone, is, as far as I’ve seen, a tool for catharsis and processing- capturing streams of thought. And I feel like this tendency is partly the result of the form- Dr. Smith said earlier that poetry is the most economical art form- you can write poetry on the subway, it takes very little relative effort to craft a poem, and it makes use of the potential of language to easily show things diegetic elements alone couldn’t.

Is that off the mark entirely?

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