Poet's Petard for July 2022
Poetry is mostly known for its ability to excite, amuse and comfort. Right now, caught in a knot of history, with more than the average gut-punching controversies drawing down our emotional reserves, I would imagine people who normally never touch the stuff (poetry, I mean) are turning to poetry out of desperation. Yet, sometimes poetry's response to the agonizing cry “Is there Balm in Gilead?” is a resounding “Nope!” and the frown and kick to go with it. People are finding it unusually hard to develop into sane, compassionate, clear, humble and steadfast adults. How can we best make use of poetry to help us out?
I'd like to offer you a few quotations from my personal trove of “words that comfort me even if I don't know exactly why.”
This first one is a little nerdy, but every time I read it. . . .well, you'll see:
Here are the opening lines of a poem by Wang Wei (701-761) translated by Florence Ayscough and
Here are three from my own collection of poetry orphans. I call “parentheses” because the only thing they share is a kind of incipient randomness, like a collection of tips of icebergs*
*Footnote: Some poets have made up their own name for those groupings of words that don't quite get to 'hold down' a formal category. Mine has been “parentheses,” but others might be “studies,” “dispatches,”“monologues,” “perambulations,” “doors,” “liminals,” “short takes,” “centuries,” “conjugations.” Many poets make up their own forms as a kind of temporary generating discipline, Certain persona poems also serve this need – to act as poetic “trellises” that offer support to ideas that would likely never emerge in any other way.