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Tuesday, May 08, 2012


I think Ruth got me thinking about the question: Why Poetry?

A lot of people have odd opinions about poetry, but it seems that a lot of people have odd opinions about a lot of things these days, so that indicates nothing  except the prevalence of odd notions.
People tend to look down on poetry. I do not have the luxury of being able to do that.
Some people feel they must apologize for their poetry, but I think this is an extension of our society's normal marginalization process, which instills a sense of inferiority and "otherness" into vast numbers of our fellow beings, keeping them at bay.

After two weeks, I have come this far:
(Note: when I say "intelligence" below, I mean the entire network of intelligence and cognition in a human being, not just "smarts"; I mean the entire neural network and what is implies over time.)

(1) Writing Creatively is a sharing of Intelligent Experience based on the assumption of Communality.

Oratory, Essays, Sermons, and Science papers go to extreme lengths to spell things out and ensure that the audience understands and - hopefully - may at times be persuaded.

Not so Fiction. Fiction ignores the business of building proofs and assumes we are companions already: we eat at the same table of intelligence. Scientists may read the papers of their scientific opponents, but it is rare that people read the fiction appraised highly by people they perceive as being decidedly different from themselves, for readers of fiction assume a communal intelligent experience of the world, not a confrontation with alien views: there is no long-lasting logic to meld alien ideas into an intelligence that has reached a certain level of complexity.

(2) Writing Creatively is an effort to recreate and re-invoke Intelligent Experience

Words are not used merely as enumerators and signs, as they were in early scripts, but are the things of the rhapsodist who recites the works of Homer, and conveys the audience into an altered reality: the reality of Troy recreated and re-invoked, and thus transforms the community of intelligence - the audience - into altered states.

(3) Poetry is Writing Creatively Confined to a Small Space

Poetry needs not meter nor rhyme; poetry only requires a crystalline growth, a certain structure - not necessarily unchanging. Meter was an ancient mnemonic; The Iliad was prose constructed to be remembered and recited, and used meter to aid the process.
Sappho and Simonides were poetry, lyric poetry.
Whereas fiction may ramble and become amorphous (Joyce's Finnegan's Wake comes to mind), not so poetry. As intelligent fellow beings experience Life, Poetry seeks to recreate the Shock of the New, whereas prose seeks to recreate histories and annals of what was once New.

Now this is a good example of what happens when we put our minds to something. Of the three points above, only number three was apprehended by me before 2 weeks ago. The idea that epic poetry was actually prose never occurred to me before, for I allowed the notion that poetry requires meter rule my mind.

We each take life like a deck of cards, we shuffle it, then pass it on to someone else who does the same thing, only each time we touch the cards, we add kings and queens in medieval panoply and symbols from the Levant: gold, silver, attar of roses;  all resplendent against the busy-ness of the four suits from ace to ten:
we hold all cards in communality, but the face cards, kings, queens, and jacks, in all their static ferocity are our poems!
And as we share them, we extend this game of life we play.


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