Theodor Adornno famously wrote that writing poetry would not be possible after Auschwitz. As it was, poetry was more necessary in a world of constant genocide. But this begs the question. What function did poetry have before it gained a new function as witness? In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance there are several references to the narrator’s, Miles Coverdale’s, use for poetry. There is even a moment where another character, Hollingsworth, questions Coverdale’s motives. He asks Coverdale what he cares about during a period of hardship, “what more do you want of it? It has given you a theme for poetry. Let that content you” (Hawthorne 131). It is clear that the criticism of Coverdale is that he does not really care what happens so long as it gives him inspiration and fodder for poetry. One does not need care for the muse, one only need use and abuse the muse.
This is furthered evidenced by the fact that Coverdale cannot write poetry during a time when he is actually doing something physically productive and necessary to sustain life such as farming (Hawthorne 66). Coverdale even acknowledges his own uselessness and insignificance at the beginning of the novel, “I am only a poet, and, so the critics tell me, no great affair at that” (Hawthorne 7)! Coverdale doubts his own worth. This leads me to ask the question: what is his poetry worth if it is just like him as a person? It does nothing.