These two quotes come from Stephen Burt’s Ted Talk: Why People Need Poetry. I highly recommend watching it.
You can’t know, you never know, you can’t be sure. And that’s okay. All we can do is listen to poems and look at poems and guess and see if they can bring us what they need, and if you’re wrong about some part of a poem, nothing bad will happen.
—Stephen Burt, on knowing exactly what a poem might mean
Poems and the patterns in poems show us not just what somebody thought or somebody did or what happened but what it was like to be a person like that, to be so anxious, so lonely, so inquisitive, so goofy, so preposterous, so brave. That’s why poems can seem at once so durable, so personal, and ephemeral, like something inside and outside of you at once.
—Stephen Burt, on what poems like Wallace Stevens’ That Brave Man, can offer us