Interesting poetry awakens us, asks us to slow down our metabolization of language, to become aware of its materiality, how it enters into us. Sacred poetry, from antiquity to the present, teaches us to be comfortable sitting in mystery without trying to resolve it, to be skeptical of unqualified certitudes. In discussing poems across the centuries—from “Hymn to Inanna” to Szymborska—Akbar reminds us that language has history, density, complexity. Such poetry, Akbar says, becomes a potent antidote against an empire that would use “the raw overwhelm of meaningless language” to cudgel us into inaction.
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