Troy Jollimore thinks the question is wrong.
What’s the function of a pop song? You like it; you listen to it; it sounds good. What’s the function of a good meal? You could say, anything that has nutritional value, but that’s the false virtuous answer—you can get nutrition from something that doesn’t taste good at all. You can say you get pleasure, but I don’t think that’s the function; I just think that’s what I like about poems, that they give pleasure. And I do think one of the wonderful things about poems—I mean, we’ve been talking a lot about what makes them hard to write, why they’re so hard and so on, but one good thing about poems which makes it easier to write is that there is no one thing they have to do. You can start off writing a poem you think is going to make people cry and it turns out to be really funny and it makes people laugh and you don’t have to throw it away; you can say, “Okay, great, I wrote something that makes people laugh, that works too. I wrote something that sticks in somebody’s mind for whatever reason, that makes them think about it and recite lines back to themselves and want to go back and read the poem again. Great.” There’s many different ways a poem can accomplish that and I think all of them are valid. What are poems for? They exist to enrich our lives. I mean, imagine life without music and without poetry, and no stories, no films—it would be pretty dreadful and boring. Art is here to make things more interesting.