Inspiration is the key!
T.S. Eliot has once stated that poetry is “an escape from personality” rather than an expression of the poet’s one. His essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent” makes it quite clear and prompts the reader to wonder about poetry’s role in escapism.
Bearing in mind that this is not about reading poetry, but rather about making it, his statement has spurred responses and criticism from both the audience, critics and fellow poets like W.H. Auden.
Before disagreeing with Eliot, one must consider what ‘personality‘ stands for. A poet can have a very quiet and relaxed social life and this might be labelled as ‘personality‘ by some; if the same poet has a dramatic and poignant approach to poetry in order to bring out their inner emotions, then yes. It is an escape from personality, in favour of the inner self. But wait, Eliot made it even clearer: it’s an escape from emotions aswell. Suddenly, I can’t think of any other way to defend Eliot’s point of view and there’s no other way to turn his statement around. I cannot think of poetry as something unrelated to emotions, as it’s probably one of the most creative ways of channeling it. One can understand the difficulty of conveying a message through words, which usually need to rhyme or fit a certain structure and that is perhaps the part that has less to do with emotions, as it requires a very practical approach, but it does not mean that this process filters emotions in such way that nothing is left of the original and raw impulse coming from the inner self.
The way I see poetry, it involves emotions calling out to the poet. The poet needs to process this emotion in such way that the message is brought out in words. This is the most difficult task, as the poet needs to find the best combination possible to convey the message in order to cause a reaction similar to that the poet recognised in its most raw form, as an emotion. A further filtering takes place when poetry must be given a precise form, and that is often a need the poet might feel depending on their education and previous studies. Basically, emotions need to be put in touch with the physical world in order to be expressed through poetry and as in translating, something always gets lost in the process but it’s the poet’s job to minimise that. Having said that, if we connect the poem to the impulse of manipulating emotions in the form of words, in some cases we can see clear basic differences in results, but that mostly depends on the ability of the poet to express what they feel. However, I would hardly see this process as an escape from emotion, but rather as a poor rendering of primary emotions at the closest.