What is now proved was once only imagin’d.
William Blake, Proverbs of Hell
When asked by Jeffrey Brown on the PBS Newshour why he accepted the position as the new United States Poet Laureate, W.S. Merwin responded: (…) I wanted to talk in an official situation, in a very public place, as public as I'm ever likely to be, about the -- what I think of as the one thing, the one talent, the one gift of human nature that does distinguish us from every other form of life.
And I don't mean intelligence. I'm not sure that we're the most intelligent of species. We use our intelligence differently. Nor am I sure that language is a good definition, because we define language. And, in fact, there are forms of language among all species, or they wouldn't survive, communication.
But I think what does distinguish us -- what distinguishes us really is imagination.
When Brown probed him to speak more on what he meant by imagination Merwin responded: Yes, the ability to sit here in Arlington and feel distressed by the homeless people in Darfur, or by the starvation of the whales in the Pacific, or by the species that are being snuffed out as we talk, or by the people who are suffering in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
Brown summarized his take on this by saying: And you have to take that sense of imagination and turn it into poetry that connects with people.
We need to use our gift of imagination and our ability to turn that imagination into art. This creative process will inspire us to find and follow new paths.