Once, on the way to Oregon, I stopped at a California winery to get free wine from the tasting room. Just at that time a tour was starting so I decided to go along. A young man of about 23 was the guide and began that strange kind of language guides use, almost a chant:…and on the left a 1500 gallon redwood barrel containing Burgundy kept always at the temperature of…and then he said Whose kid is that?
The force of whose kid is that caused everyone to pay attention to the real moment we were all in. A small child was about to fall in a very deep vat of wine.
I vowed, at that moment, that every statement in my poems should at least have the force of whose kid is that.
It is an impossible standard, but a good one. Few really bad lines can stand against it.
The guide was chanting remembered lines to a vapid audience. The distance between his Mind, our Minds, and the subject of wine-making simply was not being bridged. But the endangered child called words to his mind which were immediate and un-premeditated—it was organic, as a leap would be if one were frightened by a truck.
I really love this passage, and find it helps to keep it in mind while writing both poetry and prose.