I have always had a arm’s length kinda thing in regards poetry. I liked some (that which I could easily understand) and didn’t like some (that which I could not understand). Pretty basic analysis.
I have no idea what poem the phrase “tripping the light fantastic” comes from, but I remember a high school teacher frustrated as all heck because we were bemused by her attempts to get us to “respect” poetry. We thought it all silly, and memorizing any portion of it, a sheer waste of time.
I was troubled by the poetry I didn’t understand, often written by supposed giants of literary ability. Well, no supposed about it, they were such giants, and I was terribly worried at times what I was missing and why. I thought to read it line by line and for all my efforts I still had no idea what was being said half the time.
As I said, some I did get. “By the shores of gitchee gumee, by the shining deep sea waters. . . .” That I get.
I learned that poetry was meant to evoke emotions, yet I still felt there must be actual meaning in the words themselves? Some code I was unable to penetrate. And so mostly I left it alone.
I’m thick headed about some things. Poetry must be one. I mentioned a few days ago, that a poem I read on a site which I linked to had spoken to me powerfully. It felt like someone had dug into my skull and spoke my deepest agonies, fears, sorrows, melancholia. I’m not sure what the poem was meaning, but I finally got it, I think.
It meant what it meant to me. It evoked feelings about my state in the this world. And to him/her it might have evoked feelings about something entirely different. It might have related to an event, a time, an experience quite different from mine, but the emotions were the same.
I’m not sure I’m making much sense, but I hope you are seeing what I mean in some way.
Music is the same. Musical compositions often have names, they define the subject matter of the composer, “The Messiah,” or the “Rodeo.” Now, common sense tells you that if you were unaware of the name and you were hearing it for the first time, you wouldn’t say, oh my he’s composing a piece about Jesus Christ. Yet, we are carried by the sounds with the title, and we reflect on Jesus, knowing that it is about Him, and we FEEL a kinship to the scriptures that talk of him.
Painting and sculpture are no different. Especially the more abstract kinds, but even those dubbed Romanticism and Expressionism also do this. They may depict more identifiable objects, yet they are distorted in some way that allows us to dig deeper, feel deeper, and connect with our spirit-soul.
At least that is what I think. That is why the arts are essential to our humanity. That is why we started to represent things in our own imaginings almost from the start. From the fertility goddesses we fashioned in the stone age to the cave paintings in Lascaux, France, to Monet and Picasso. We seek to speak the unspeakable and we seek to ask the world to understand what we cannot say.
Poetry is that. It speaks of what is not speakable.
And yet, I would not negate the poetry that tells the story. For it has it’s place. It is the journeyman’s way. It is what I write, and so many of us write, some better, some not so. But it is our ungifted attempt to speak of more than what we can utter in declarative sentence.
It is what caused Dorothy Parker to correct anyone who wanted to talk of her “poetry.” “No,” she would say, “not poetry, but my verses. I am no poet.”
Poetry is the Psalmist who cries for Jerusalem, yet, two thousand years later, manages to still speak to our condition as we cry for whatever is holy and seemingly withheld from our hands and hearts.
Camus suggests that true genius is accompanied by a requisite amount of banality. I have said more than once that every decent thought has been thought, we merely come up with them again and again, until such time as the other pieces are available and we can make something of them.
So poetry reminds us, in the end, of that timelessness. That the same hopes, dreams, fears, jealousies, hatreds are ever with us, no matter whether we awaken upon a mammoth robe or on 1200-thread count linen sheets. It is all the same.
Nothing new here folks. Just an aging woman finally getting something through a puzzling mind. And I have yet to speak of war and scripture and things more marvelous still. But tomorrow is another day, God willing.