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Beauty in the Reflex Itself

Poetry and table tennis are games of reflex. They are played optimally—and play is the operative word—in the synaptic space where consciousness has no time to abstract into self-recrimination. There is no beauty in the reflex itself, there is beauty in its timing. That is, there is beauty in the relation between stimulus and reflex. In poetry, language is the stimulus we are responding to, as it accommodates and counters our efforts.

—Gregory Pardlo, “On Table Tennis and Poetry

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