Friday, September 06, 2013

Poetry as Life

I just got this in my inbox: Poetry's a life, not necessarily a living. I couldn't agree more. Poetry is a way of seeing. Just this morning I was thinking about the relevance of poetry. I once wrote an article about it: The Relevance of Poetry in Today's World on Suite 101. Poetry's beauty really depends on the beholder. But it's true that there aren't many readers of poetry books or of poetry in general. It's not Fifty Shades of Gray. It won't give a writer the success of a Harry Potter. But it does provide many things for the writer.

What interested me in the article from Poetry.About.Com was the way it distinguished a life from a living. A living is the way one survives or even thrives. But a life is what we truly make. It is what "the living" is for. And poetry does answer that requirement.

The life of a poet is a life of epiphanies, a life of sudden, striking realizations. It is a life dedicated to seeing beyond what is obvious or ordinary. It is a life lived groping for words to paint joy or grief or love. As Socrates says, "the unexamined life is not worth living." And that is where poetry has stepped in for me. It is framing my life for examination.

There might be a misconception that poets write when struck by inspiration. I don't think this is true. Well, there *are* moments when I cannot help but write. (There is a really great description of the muse in Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk. ) For me, it is a discipline. It is a way of distilling raw experience and turning it into something that helps me make sense of it, that inspires me, or that helps me see something that I didn't see before. In a way, I find that writing poetry is a meditation. And meditation is deliberate, it is a practice. It is not something you do when it strikes your fancy. It is clearing one's noisy mind and connecting with the numinous while still perfectly grounded on earth.

So, here is my invitation: live the poetic life. Hold your days in your hands. They will slip by forever if you do not glimpse the shining moment.

To end, I offer you a line from one of the most beautiful poems in the bible (I got this translation directly from Jeanette Winterson's description of Sonali Deraniyagala's book, Wave): "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it."

That can only be said in a poem.

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