Unlike the Irish, who embrace and celebrate their poets, or the Japanese with their several centuries long history of haiku, we Americans embrace the rational, the utilitarian and too often jot our observations down in reductionist, artless lines….I know that is not always true, but face it, we scoff at poetry, unless it is dressed in the postures of hip-hop or pop culture, ambient lyrics vying for our attention in the ‘battle’ to attract customers. Poets take as a given the mystery and beauty of life. They do not shy away from the sharp edges and risks. Like visual artists, whose eyes cause them to see the world in a multiplicity of ways, poets describe a mutable, ineffable world, that is different from moment to moment, whose ‘boundaries’ shift and transform that which they appear to contain…as if the world were an experiment in the shifting perspective of quantum physics….Poets ‘paint’ with swaths and scrawls of letters across the page, measured and rhythmic, a code, an illumination, a pathway they’ve scribed across a page, from heart to heart across the beating Earth. We Americans crave solidity, a stable world where being and life are fixed and knowable…we leave the rest for God and the egg-heads as if these things don’t really matter to us…as they are beyond our ken and responsibility. The world of the poet raises too many questions for us and questions can undermine the investment we’ve put into our fixed world image upon which we’ve staked our lives. Americans are blindered gamblers and most of us have placed our bets on the same outcome.
I do read poetry…even attempt to write it sometimes. I read science and history, politics and about the social ways of my fellows. I garden and often agonize over what is ‘wrong’ in this world…what we can do to heal it. Poetry teaches us that connection is often not found in a straight line. Solution is not found in the old ways of thinking, ways that can only lead us down this path we seem to be fatally connected to. Poetry is opening and inclusive, it speaks to what we share, what we stand to lose. To read it requires something different of us, that we exercise and strengthen long neglected muscles, muscles that once moved us through our childhood worlds of wonder and awe. The adult world has largely banished this, stripped life of wonder, and with it, the value integral to the heart of all things. We scoff at those who speak of this, call them childish and dismiss them….This is what we’ve lost and the world so desperately needs today. Continue reading