I hope I don’t wear you out with my musings. Poetry is there when you need it. It seems to rise to the occasion when nothing else will do. It concentrates the mind and the emotions, like scripture.
Poets get a bad rap, partly of their own doing. Poems come across as puzzles too often: What’s he or she really saying? Why not just talk plainly?
I think our notion that poets have their heads in the clouds or up their asses comes from the 19th-century Romantics.
Ferlinghetti is an eminence among our modern poets. He has pushed back against complexity in poetry. He and Cummings and Bukowski are credited with being “gateway” poets who tempt folks into poetry because their verse is “easy” to grasp.
Poets sprout from various crevices and lurk among us. One I follow wrote not long ago that “poetry is easier to write than to read.”
Nowadays poetry is mostly read by other poets, and by duffers like me. Poetry seems to me similar to mathematics, though — useless yes, essential yes. I’ve often heard people say something like “I’ve never used algebra after having to study it in high school.” It’s beside the point. “Useless” abstract studies wire our brains in positive ways.
Auden wrote in his elegy to Yeats, “Poetry makes nothing happen.” Toward the end he falls into strict cadence: “Earth, receive an honored guest. William Yeats is laid to rest… With your unconstraining voice… Still persuade us to rejoice…. In the prison of his days… Teach the free man how to praise.”
Rejoice and praise. It packs an emotional wallop that I can’t quite put a finger on, what with the rhythm and rhyme and all. It reminds me of the force that “Taps” has when played on a bugle at a grave. Makes me bawl. I guess that’s why poetry hangs around, at least for now.
[Copyright (c) 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.]