But mostly what I envy painters for is art galleries. Just walking into an art gallery gives me a feeling of uplift. I love libraries too, but the feeling in a library is that you will paw around ferretting out information, whereas in a gallery the feeling is that enlightenment will come to you. You don’t have to know anything when you get there. You just check your coat, mash the clip-on tag to your collar, and trust that whatever you need to know will be explained as you go along.
This is why I propose that the best way to make contemporary poetry accessible to a wider public would be to put it in museums. To trot out an old saw: “Ut pictura poesis,” Horace wrote in the first century BC. “As is painting so is poetry.” This idea has been bandied about so much that scholars refer to it as u.p.p., and the question of whether poetry and painting do or should resemble each other has preoccupied artists from Titian to Wallace Stevens. These discussions, however, have primarily focused on artistic practice. What I mean isn’t that poetry should have more visual elements or become more abstract or more representational or otherwise do what visual art does. What I mean is that I think people would like poetry better if there were somewhere they could go to look at it that had high ceilings and good lighting and curatorial text to explain things about the poems that might not be obvious.