A poem begins as a lump in the throat – Robert Frost
Once again I feel drawn to share some of Anne Rennie’s writings with you from her book The Secret Garden of Spirituality. This one is about the value of poetry. So many of us bloggers dabble in writing poetry. We read or follow poets like S Thomas Summers who paints the most amazing pictures with his words. Or Jane Basil who shares life’s pains and challenges – and sometimes takes time to just revel in the joys of playing with words. Or Candice Louisa Daquin whose every word packs a punch as she passionately gives voice to the voiceless.
So what is the purpose of poetry? Why read it? Why write it?
This is what Ann Rennie has to say:
“British novelist Kingsley Amis asked: ‘Should poets bicycle-pump the human heart? Or squash it flat?
National Poetry Week was celebrated recently with barely a twinge of interest, so perhaps it is timely to consider the place of poetry in the 21st century. Does it still have a place in a world that so often weeps? Can poetry, in the mere arrangement of its words, offer solace and hope?
Can it reset the human heart? In our rush to embrace all things technological and text-y, have we lost touch with the slow joys of poetry, the rhapsodic ruminations on the page, the words on wings that deify the daily? If we have, then things are bleak indeed. For poets have much to say about what it is to be human. Their words crystallise the lumpy images of discontent, the heartburn of betrayal, the burlesque banquet of human folly. Poets are not new Age spin-doctors with media degrees who manipulate words to importune and mask. Instead they quietly ask the philosopher’s questions and hold a mirror to our lives. They craft their words with care , letting each poem set sail upon the strange currents of the human heart.
If we do not read – or listen – to poetry we deny ourselves a great pleasure. We deny ourselves the thrilling eavesdropping that reveals the secret, splits open the soul, unleashes the imagination.
We may hazily remember the poems of our past: Wordsworth and his daffodils; Alfred Noyes and his highwayman, forever ‘riding, riding, riding’; Shakespeare and his sonnets; Keats and his odes. Perhaps there were times when we were subjected to the drowsy frowsy poems Byron so ridiculed., the poems of verbal excrescence and rampant vocabulary. Yes, there are minor poets for good reason.
In celebrating poetry we acknowledge the gift of the classics. We also realise that poetry is not the preserve of an educated elite. Poetry should be heard on the factory floor, not just in the raunchy limerick but in sensitive political comment. It should be heard and read in cottages and convention centres, in great gathering spaces and the small rooms of boarding houses.
If we deny poetry in our lives, we lose the silken skein of wonder, the embroidered images of delight.
We lose also the voices that tell it how it is, the voices of reason, the voices of doom. Wilfred Owen, the war poet, wrote that ‘all a poet can do today is warn.’ Sometimes a poet’s insights can unravel the awkward or articulate the distressing. When the world is ailing, faltering, the poet’s obligation is to sound the voice of concern. John Fitzgerald Kennedy noted that ‘when power corrupts, poetry cleanses’. Poetry enables us to wash the dirt off, to come clean.
A poet’s job is to raise questions and make observations about the human condition. Australian poet Bernard O’Dowd said that a poet’s function was ‘to chart the day and make it habitable’. Sometimes a poem can make us change course, make us reconsider where we stand or what we stand for.
In a world of technological gluttony and cyber surveillance we need the quiet moments of solitude to take us back to our unaccessorised, simply graced selves.
Whether a poet bicycle-pumps or squashes the heart is not the issue. That he makes us look into our own hearts is.”
© Raili Tanska
Peace starts with good deeds
like taking trash and
opening the door for old people.
–Jamien Alexander, Poems by children