I'm starting to read and make notes about Jane Hirshfield for Crafted Poetry, and I came across these lines in her poem, "Mathematics."
Does a poem enlarge the world,
or only our idea of the world?
I think it enlarges both. Every time I read a poem, whether a good one or a bad one (and we can argue about those parameters forever), I'm seeing something, someone, or some situation in a different way. I'm outside of my own consciousness, culture, gender, language, time, prejudices... My own world has changed, and therefore, how I behave in, or think about the world has changed.
I believe in the butterfly effect, and therefore I believe in the power of subtle shifts of consciousness. (Incidentally, the story by Ray Bradbury, "A Sound of Thunder," is simultaneously lovely and disturbing, as is most of what Bradbury writes.) Unintended consequences can be good or bad, yes? The consequences of reading poetry (or viewing art, or listening to music) can be either. Beware!