Friday, August 26, 2011

Poetry Is A

Poetry is a means of communication between the stable and universal background of human personality and the flowing foreground of the individual. The act of creating a poem - or any work of art - is an act of translating; and if pure poetry could be created, it would not be literature; it would be music; just as pure music could be conceived only as enchanted silence.

- John G. Neihardt, Poetic Values: Their Reality and Our Need of Them

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I'll go John one better: the act of living - any life - is an act of translating, of clothing in flesh the idea of life, of taking the thoughts that are our sole possession and translating them into acts, objects, patterns, broken patterns, relationships: life.

* * *

A few years ago I felt I had to sell off my books in order to raise some money to make rent. I got rid of 80% I had spent most of my adult life collecting and gathering. The pay out was puny for such devotion and I promised myself the future pleasure of re-assembling my books. Most of what I didn't sell was either too dear to me, or simply too far gone to be worth a nickle. Poetic Values stayed because I believed in his basic premise: we need poetry in order to be human. It is a first edition from a relatively collectable author whose later work in ethnography would change generations to follow. It might have raised all of $20 for me. I passed.

The poetic value is the value you place on life, on your life, on any life. Is there any value to living at all? If so, what is it? Do you live it? Does it animate your thought, or does it sleep?

If you are fucked and stuck and going nowhere or going through the motions or motioning for time out or are simply out of it, I ask you: what do you value?

See, if you value something, if it has value/meaning/importance in your life then you will translate that value into the way you live. You will act on that value. If you are fucked you have stopped acting, stopped translating. You've allowed the inherent difficulties, unfairness and injustice of living to derail you, to strip you of the values you (and you alone) have. Without those values how can you act? What is life without meaning?

I'll answer that: life without meaning is time wasted, is mere existence; with meaning it is Life itself. You are a finite event. When will you live?

Wake the fuck up, dude.

* * *

I believe in words. I believe in the effort it takes to say what you mean and mean what you say. I believe in my children and the changing of the generational guard. I believe that just because you can't be with someone doesn't mean you can't love them. I believe once given, love extends itself endlessly. I believe nothing is wasted unless you make it so. I believe in the kindness and friendship shown to me. I believe nothing worth having is free. I believe life is for us to see what we can make of it. I believe to pass on that challenge because we've been wounded, hurt, harmed by circumstance or laziness is the only sin available to us. I believe we are supposed to be verbs not nouns. And as someone who has failed time and time again to live by those beliefs, I believe we are redeemed by the effort to try again.

* * *

Human beings suffer,
they torture one another,
they get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
can fully right a wrong
inflicted or endured.

The innocent in gaols

beat on their bars together.
A hunger-striker's father
stands in the graveyard dumb.
The police widow in veils
faints at the funeral home.

History says, Don't hope

on this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
the longed for tidal wave
of justice can rise up,
and hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change

on the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
and cures and healing wells.

Call the miracle self-healing:

The utter self-revealing
double-take of feeling.
If there's fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing

the outcry and the birth-cry
of new life at its term.
It means once in a lifetime
That justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.

- From The Cure At Troy, Seamus Heaney

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Now go.


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