A new year is a good time to be thinking about poetry. It’s on my mind, since 2016 ended with poetry—the annual Solstice Poetry Reading at Glen Helen (which attracted 92 hardy souls on a cold winter evening)—and 2017 began with it: a reading at Blue Jacket Books last Saturday by poets with works in From the Tower: Poetry in Honor of Conrad Balliet. Also, I’m deep into reading Bruce Springsteen’s new autobiography Born to Run, and everyone knows the Boss is as much poet as musician.
So I’m asking myself here at the dawn of my 65th new year: why is poetry so necessary? Because, for many of us, poetry is life.
Springsteen’s excellent book reminds me how hard a song (poem) can hit; how, the more distilled, the sharper it’s honed, the more capable it is of “taking the top of your head off,” in Dickenson’s fiery phrase (or, more gently, capable of inserting fingers beneath your skin or uncurling in the mind like a flower’s petals).
The extremely high value of a song/poem—one that belongs to everyone because there’s so much room (for interpretation, for imagination, for inhabitation)—is that it becomes a place for writers to stand and declare their soul-hood: “I may be just one, but I am one and won’t be denied!” And for their audience to be inspired—knocked on your ass, as the Boss might say—by the power of word and song (aren’t poems really both?).
“Life trumps art,” Springsteen concludes at one point in his memoir—but I find myself torn. Where does one end and the other begin? The experience of art not only informs nearly every aspect of my life but can actually overtake (and hopefully not overwhelm) it, existing with daily life side by side; for what is a summer stream without my aesthetic experience of it, noticing how its luminous surface is like a sheet of hot metal delivered from the blazing blast furnace of the sky? The experience is the poem I’ll later write about it . . . maybe; if not, the image, the experience is registered, stored (and storied), not only by my mind but on some cellular (unconscious) level as well.
Is everyone like this—or only poets, artists, songwriters? Am I weird?
We all have access to a poetic, aesthetic life but, like an aptitude or predilection toward archery or architecture, you’ve got to surrender to it regularly until it’s beyond engrained; until, for all intents and purposes (“intensive porpoises”—no poetry without language!), you are the poem.
Okay, but you still have to wash the dishes—but, hey, notice how the soapy foam on that fork makes it look as if it’s dissolving in the sunset glow entering the kitchen window . . .
Readings in 2017
Stay tuned for info on more poetry readings in 2017. Already you can put Friday, December 8, 7-9:00 p.m. on your calendar for the next Solstice Poetry Reading at the Vernet Ecological Center, 400 Corry Street, Yellow Springs, Ohio. Also, another From the Tower reading is planned for the Emporium in Yellow Springs, time and date to be announced soon.
Please share news of any readings, poetry or prose, that you know about and I’ll pass it along. Meanwhile, a good antidote for “the real world” is to read and write poems and songs.
Blog photo by Dennie Eagleson