"After one has abandoned a belief in God," Wallace Stevens said, "poetry is that essence which takes its place as life's redemption." This makes sense to me: poetry often has a murkiness that allows it to deal with subjects themselves shrouded in haze. And what subject is murkier than death, about which medical science can tell us everything and nothing all at once? We know exactly what happens to a body after death; we know nothing about what happens to the consciousness it used to house.
Paradoxically, poetry is valuable in dealing with grief and despair because of its knife-edge precision. It can cut through the meaningless murmuring and timid equivocation that so often accompanies writing about death.
You can read the rest at The Age.
(Thanks to JimC of Melbourne for alerting me to this article.)