I’ve been thinking about poetry. In the end that got me to thinking about music and art in general. I’m sure you have found yourself thinking about them too. In case you haven’t, I’ll share.
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.
like the cliche’ goes
Thanx for sharing
I get it
lol..thank you G. more than you know
I share your thoughts and feelings on poetry. Funny, I went to a school that never required us to memorize even a line of poetry. I wonder if it’s because it was such a backward, working class, rural place that the teachers never saw the point in trying to force those farm kids and river rats to learn something as trivial as poetry.
Anyway, I really enjoyed this piece of writing. Thank you.
I’m not so sure I ever had to memorize much either frankly Lisa, but I recall the Hiawatha thing, so at least that one. Poetry was not stressed, and I took little Lit in college, so I was never properly introduced.
Glad you enjoyed this though. I’m in a weird mood the last few days. I have another couple weird posts coming I suspect. Then I will be back to normal no doubt.
Randal Graves said:
It’s a nebulous art, and each of us gets our own thing out of it. Five of us could read the same piece and get five different sentiments based on past experiences, the words in the verses themselves, how they’re laid out, and on and on. Straightforward Robert Frost or purposely hermeneutic Mallarmé, the same human wellspring.
That’s what I have finally seen Randal. Which makes you wonder just what the critic can say that is meaningful. Seems a very personal kinda thing.
We bring our own experiences to each work and color it accordingly.
Indeed, I like that phrase Lib. We do color each piece according to our own history.
Ah … poetry. One of my true loves. Sherry, check out Mary Oliver’s work — especially “The Journey”. Here’s a link …
Oh thanks Jaliya, I’m always happy to try somebody new. Ferlinghetti was one of my finds several years ago. And Wm Blake. Shakespeare of course and I’m finding Dante quite exquisite. Thanks for the link, and I’ll follow it presently.
Yeah, Sherry, I too struggle with poetry, and it sometimes concerns me that I don’t warm to it as avidly as others. I’m the same way with dance. And when I hear people I admire wax rhapsodic about either I feel less like I’m missing something in the art than something’s missing in me.
But that’s the beauty of art, isn’t it. There are so many means of self-expression because they all speak to us differently.
As to the teaching of poetry, if you’ve not seen “The History Boys” I highly recommend it for all sorts of reasons–one of the highest being its depiction of what great teaching of poetry looks like.
PS: I respect your courage in confessing to what so many of us try to conceal!
Tim, I do think that many of us resonate with one form of art more than others. And that’s probably okay. I’ll check out the History Boys!
Lol… I may be just stupid Tim. I do tend to let it all hang out. If people like me, then at least they know ME and not some facade. At least I tell myself that. But I figure there are always others just like me too. And it’s nice to know you’re not alone.
Sherry, I always like your wanderings. Thanks for Camus’ thoughts on poetry and banality. That must be my sentimentality, which crops up–about what and who I love. Sentimentality and banality don’t appear so to the one experiencing/expressing that.
It is a cool, gray and rainy day in Bellingham, WA. I appreciate this quiet time at my husband’s parents’ house, so I can visit blogs I’ve been missing for the past few weeks! (It’s only 61 degrees here, while it’s about 30 degrees hotter in Corpus Christi at the same time!)
Jan, I’ve been following your trip on your blog. I’m sure it has been magnificent. Quite a change in store for you when you return to Corpus Christi! I’m sure WA is a great place, I suspect it has a bit too much rain for me to handle. lol..
Sherry, I’m not much of a poet, but I do love poetry. I have found that knowing the author’s historical, cultural, and personal context helps me interpret the work in a way that is meaningful to me.
Tom, I’m sure that is most helpful. I hadn’t thought much about that, but truly it would help to know I’m very sure.