Musings on Poetry
There was a time in our cultural history when schoolchildren excitedly memorized poetry to compete for prizes in their recitations. Of course, that was before texting and even PacMan. I have a bumper sticker on my car: Poetry Saves. It does, but more importantly it helps put the jigsaw puzzle pieces of life together, to understand ourselves, to feel the unknowable, and sometimes to work at doing each of these, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Don’t be afraid of poetry. See where words can take you! An exploration as quick or profound as you want. That’s the way it is with poetry. It’s your choice. No other literary form gives you so much freedom.
Where are they going
these lights of sea and sky?
What space and time serve them
that we never quite grasp, never quite fathom?
If I slip down and join
this phosphorescent stream
will I discover boundless time
that dwells beyond our certainty?
Of course, I wasn’t really going to jump overboard in the middle of the night, but the thought provided me with a path into my own mortality. Your enjoyment of poetry doesn’t have to be profound, in this selection it can just be the exquisite beauty of a night at sea. Poetry can or cannot rhyme; it can or cannot have a specific meter. For me, and many others who write and teach poetry, sound and rhythm matter, but also it needs to touch something in the reader. A famous, well-respected poet and winner of three Pulitzer Prizes, Archibald MacLeish, wrote in his well-known poem Ars Poetica, “A poem should not mean/But be.” For me, this is similar to the sort of being that I wrote about on my Home page: “there is a special intimacy with people and places that happens via a sailing circumnavigation when we take time to be somewhere.”
Read poetry and just be.