Fragmentary Thoughts about Poetry

  • Why I write: I write to discover myself. Who I am. That irreducible sense of myself that follows me wherever I go. When one is called upon to find something that expresses a reality beyond the pedestrian. I write to discover realities by opening myself and becoming willing to take away the censor that controls what can be said and what can’t be said.
  • Why I read: I read poetry to enter into an intimate conversation with a fellow human being who has worked with the craft of poetry and is willing to try and perfect a linguistic structure that allows us to enter into his/her shared reality. An example of what I’m talking about is this poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

Spring and Fall
To a young child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

  • What does William Carlos Williams mean by the quote, “It is difficult/to get the news from poems/yet men die miserably every day/for lack of what is found there?” Richard Hugo once told me, “You don’t have to know what a poem means, all you have to know is that poet knows what it means and that his meaning is a shared experience.”
  • It strikes me that what Williams means is something similar to what Hugo is talking about—this shared experience that can be captured with words. In Galway Kinnell’s obituary, it is stated thusly: “Through it all, he held that it was the job of poets to bear witness. ‘To me,’ he said, ‘poetry is somebody standing up, so to speak, and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment.’”
  • Adyashanti, a Buddhist monk, recently expressed the opinion that poetry attempts to articulate the irreducible quality of things. The thing is just the thing, not in anything said about it. There are no things. Everything is a process. Words can both reveal and conceal. Whenever you call it one thing, you’ve eliminated other things. Don’t walk in someone’s mind with dirty feet. The thing you take away from a poem did not come from the words themselves.

Potential Art of Healing Cover

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