Is there any other way?

why-poetry

Excerpts from A Few Questions for Poetry by Daniel Halpern:

Why Poetry? Well, yes. Most books of poetry sell a couple of thousand copies, at best. So in a quantitative sense, what’s the point of supporting it? […]

A question I often ask myself is why so many people (and we’re now talking about millions of people) turn to poetry for all important rites of passage — weddings, funerals, toasts, tragedies, eulogies, birthdays. . . . Why? Because the language of poetry avoids the quotidian — but the best poetry simultaneously celebrates the quotidian. Language that’s focused in such a way that true meaning and emotion is redolent in the air. The poet W.S. Merwin once said: “Poetry addresses individuals in their most intimate, private, frightened and elated moments . . . because it comes closer than any other art form to addressing what cannot be said. In expressing the inexpressible, poetry remains close to the origins of language.”

Why poetry? I sent out a few emails to see what various people had to say. The poet Louise Glück, on the subject of book sales, wrote back, “The books may not sell, but neither are they given away or thrown away. They tend, more than other books, to fall apart in their owners’ hands. […]

The novelist Richard Ford differed from the poets in his take: “The question ‘Why poetry?’ isn’t asking what makes poetry unique among art forms; poetry may indeed share its origins with other forms of privileged utterance. A somewhat more interesting question would be: “What is the nature of experience, and especially the experience of using language, that calls poetic utterance into existence? What is there about experience that’s unutterable?” You can’t generalize very usefully about poetry; you can’t reduce its nature down to a kernel that underlies all its various incarnations. I guess my internal conversation suggests that if you can’t successfully answer the question of “Why poetry?,” can’t reduce it in the way I think you can’t, then maybe that’s the strongest evidence that poetry’s doing its job; it’s creating an essential need and then satisfying it.” […]

Again, why poetry? I wrote the poet Robert Hass. His response: “ ‘Paradise Lost’ was printed in an edition of no more than 1,500 copies and transformed the English language. Took a while. Wordsworth had new ideas about nature: Thoreau read Wordsworth, Muir read Thoreau, Teddy Roosevelt read Muir, and we got a lot of national parks. Took a century. What poetry gives us is an archive, the fullest existent archive of what human beings have thought and felt by the kind of artists who loved language in a way that allowed them to labor over how you make a music of words to render experience exactly and fully.” […]

Why read poetry? Emily Dickinson wrote: “If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way?” …

Comments

  1. That survives a good deal more stimulating, and helping your visitors accomplish some sort of end result that they are really longing for.

    Thanks for reviewing these suggestions, as frequently.
    Have a great o

    Liked by 1 person

  2. i love the ‘falls apart in their hands’ comment. yes, it does –

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Never asked myself the question before. Why poetry? And now I’ve been thinking about it all morning and still can’t put it in words.

    It goes way back. The only times I saw my dad like this. Sitting in his chair by the window reciting poetry. Every few lines he would lift his eyes up and ask, “are you following? ”

    If I can put in words what I saw in my father when he recited poetry, maybe someday I can put in words why poetry.
    All his fallen apart poetry books are mine now.

    You, David, why poetry?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Yes, poetry!!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I just love this about Thoreau, Wordsworth, Muir and Roosevelt! Inspiration comes in many forms but poetry just nails it!

    Liked by 1 person

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