Friday, 13 May 2011

Poetry - A Defence Of

Did I mention I'm a poetry fan? Love reading it, love writing it!
I mention poetry at the risk of alienating some readers... Why is it exactly that the word 'poetry' inspires such negative and repulsive reactions from most people?  And why does it seem to conjure up pictures of grey-haired tweed-suit-wearing old guys posing and pottering around, paper and quill in hand,  spouting things like 'thee' and 'thou 'and 'oh come ye'? Yeah right. That was poetry decades ago.  Mostly nonsense dribbled out in la-de-da  language, aimed at the elite of society, not like poetry today.
Nowadays poetry is anything but boring. It is passionate and powerful. It is intense and real, like a smack in the face.  It packs a punch. It stuns us with significance. Why do I personally love poetry? Because it is the language of emotion. Pure and undiluted and unadulterated emotion. Like a shot of straight-up whiskey that burns on its way down.  Intoxicating. 

More than just words on a page, poetry is rather to do with a state of being. A state of awareness. It's about finding rhyme and reason in life, finding the rhyme in the reason, and the reason in the rhyme! It's about being open. Open to beauty and wonder and those everday incognito gifts. It's about being grateful and sharing that gratefulness. It's about rediscovering truth; truth which gets lost in the illusions of routine, of materialistic madness, the emptiness of day-to-day ennui and mundanity. Poetry is like a light which flashes through all of this, illuminating and defining what is important.  And most of all, poetry is about love. About falling in love with the world and then expressing that love to the world. 

My love affair with poetry did not begin in school, but by stumbling on a few poems post-university that really described life to a tee. They were truth that couldn't be found anywhere else. You know when you have a dilemma and you spend hours on the phone chatting with a friend trying to understand and analyse, mulling it over and over in the mill of your mind, but to no avail? Well, check out a poem instead. A poem can have all the answers. It gets what you're going through. Sheds light on it. Illuminates it even into a state a grace, a state of beauty. Poetry is understanding. Poetry is life held up to a light and examined. Poetry is wisdom. 

And, there's something for everybody in modern poetry. Whether it's short and sweet haikus, comedy shorts, performance pub power poetry, conversational language; poems not only dedicated to love and nature and death, but apples and coffee and red wheelbarrows and tuna-fish and kites and bees and rainy days and making tea for a lover.
So why don't we all love it? Why don't we use it more? Because we've been scarred by memories of having it force-fed to us at school, unrelative lyrics about swanning around in nature and stuffy stiff-upper-lip language? Because it was something to learn by rote until every line of it became nothing only mind-numbing pain and pressure? Or because we think it's naf? Something for snobs, old-fashioned loonies, or boring old bookworms? Never imagining that young people could love it. That it could speak directly to teenagers' thudding over-drive hearts or young people on the cusp of adulthood, or anybody with a pulse for that matter. Anybody who ever loved, or lost, or got beat down, or experienced loss, or confusion. or just wondered what the hell am I doing on this planet! Poetry is for everyone!

I always ask young poetry-loathers whether they like music. Of course, they all answer with a resounding YES - music is the religion of teenagers after all. Well then, I reply, you must like poetry because songs are just poems put to music. Look at the lyrics. Look at the rhyme. The metaphors. The grand emotion behind them. All the same ingredients as poems! They look bemused, but finally succumb to agreement when I demand that they look at their favourite artist's lyrics for homework. Ask people who the greatest poet of our time is and most of them would answer Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan man! Not Shakespeare. Not Yeats or Keats or The Beats. A poet is someone who can relate to all and speak for all in a language that's alive to the point it crackles with electricity.

So here, ladies and gentlemen, I'm gonna act as a kind of poetry ambassador... unveiling wonders of poems to you in a very ta-da! shock-and-gasp-manner. Reading a poem a day is like taking a vitamin for the soul. So I'd like to use this space to share some of my favourite poems and only hope that they will become to you what they are to me. I have so many favourite poems and poets it's hard to know where to begin....but I think I'll start with the famous American poet, EE Cummings.

What I love about EE Cummings is how alive his poems are.  Living breathing entities. This is largely due to how he daringly flaunts traditional poetic aspects of form and structure and plays around with language in such an expressive way. He really is the poet flying the banner for having fun with language. Language can do so many things, can be frolicked with and flaunted in so many different ways to express our wide variety of ever-in-flux emotions and EE captures this amazingly. He's one of the most original, exciting and exhilarating poets of modern times and 'i thank You God for most this amazing' is  one of his most joyous reflections on being alive. It celebrates the beauty of being alive and gratefulness for life.
The ultimate poet of blue skies and sunshine and springtime green!


i thank You God for most this amazing - ee cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)


  1. Inspiring view on poetry's power - and love the EE Cummings selection! hope to read more blogs soon

  2. Thank you v much! And more of EE Cummings to come... along with other great poems & poets...!


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