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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Poems Are Necessary

Recently, I ran across an interview with Daniel Halpern, who heads up the National Poetry Series. It is in the July/August issue of Poets & Writers. This particular comment, on possible changes in cultural sensibilities toward poetry, is worth sharing: "In this country and probably everywhere, poetry is the first thing people turn to during times of crisis or transition -- weddings, deaths, 9/11, for instance. It's always the poem that seems to be capable of carrying the emotional baggage. Whatever that represents, it's the thing that makes poetry so consistent over the years."

I'm not certain that in "times of crisis or transition," folks I know would turn first to poetry to address their concerns, but it is true that poetry can speak with a voice that prose is unable to do. I find that friends often use a poem to provide support to someone undergoing a rough time of it, and during a funeral or memorial service a poem is a frequent part of the service or placed in the bulletin. Why is this? Music and poetry share the same genetic makeup, and both can get through the mazes of stress and grief or worry in ways that pure prosaic words fail to do.

Maybe it's because I have loved poetry ever since high school, when I was unable to express my own feelings adequately. Words can sing, but I couldn't find them in my own mind until I began a serious reading of the poetic literature of the ages -- introduced by caring teachers of English literature. My early attempts at writing poems were pretty dramatic and emotional, especially the love poems. But they were the next phase of my fascination with words and what they mean. The bards of old, David with his lyre, Shakespeare and ensuing poets of all times, are clear evidence that their music and poetry were the fare of kings and emperors, of those in power who need nothing more than the mystic words to confirm their power. I wouldn't be surprised if Eve's first words to Adam when she morphed out of that rib were in the form of a couplet, the content of which has been lost in the dust of time. Perhaps some of you reading this have ideas about what she might have uttered. Later, no doubt, they were transcribed on to a rock, which has never been discovered in the archaeological ruins of another time. Who, I wonder, will find it, the inscription of creation?

No doubt this is the point where I end the blog with a poem of my own, but I feel inadequate for the task after what I've noted here. If anyone out there comes up with something, let me know. You can find me right here.