Ever onward goes the search to define and understand, the nature of humanity in particular. As creatures of language, it’s only natural that poets should be honored alongside politicians and war heroes. From what I understand, there was a movement in around the late 18th, early 19th century that moved poets to an exalted position within their societies. Poets became the voice of the nation, the people who could stand outside the nation and reflect it. The reflections that haunt us with their poignancy, beauty, and/or accuracy have helped etch out the Poet’s place in society.

As creatures of language, we need narrative. Poets give us a story that satisfies. It helps meet the need to define ourselves as a group. While sometimes the poet that comes to define a certain group gets chosen for reasons I might not agree with or respect, it’s the test of time that truly gives a poet immortality. I don’t think immortality should be a goal of a work or an author-there’s no way for them to know if they’ve achieved it, so why focus on it? I do think that it should be a goal of society to preserve the past to share with the future. The problem comes in effectively communicating what’s been preserved. It’s not enough to revere the heroes; a better homage would be a dedicated engagement with their ideas. A part of that engagement would be working to understand how the idea came to be and why it’s important in the context of today.

Going to a museum is a personal experience. The pieces, displays and exhibits frequently interact with the viewer with no medium of school or outside text. It’s important to go to museums to not simply stare in awe at the work of an “immortal” but to connect the piece to more than just “the awesome vacation I took.” Writers are national heroes because their works come in a medium more accessible than art-the written word.

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