2.08.2011

Thoughts on Poetry

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A few nights ago, Kevin and I were reading (well I was reading, he was watching sports re-plays on youtube) in bed, and I came across a poem I loved so much. I read it to him, as tears began welling in my eyes and he smiled at me, nodded and replied "I don't get it."

I understand that. I think poetry is one of the most misunderstood genres of writing and a lot of young people especially associate it with emo and mushy love poetry. It frustrates me, because poetry is my favorite genre of writing and it influences me more than any form of literature. Last night, still disturbed by the issue, I opened my favorite book "Good Poems for Hard Times" selected and introduced by Garrison Keillor. I read the full intro, which is something I never do because the poems themselves I always felt deserved my full attention, but I think that Keillor's introduction is poetry in and of itself, and the entire time I read it I realized it was exactly what I wanted to say to Kevin, and to you, and to anyone who maybe misunderstands poetry or thinks it still needs to rhyme, or thinks it is only about love.

Here is what Keillor says, "Poetry is a necessity as simple as the need to be touched and similarly a need that is hard to enunciate... The meaning of poetry is to give courage. A poem is not a puzzle that you the dutiful reader are obliged to solve. It is meant to poke you, get you to buck up, pay attention, rise and shine, look alive, pull up your socks, wake up and die right."

He continues, "But what really matters about poetry and what distinguishes poets from, say, fashion models or ad salesmen is the miracle of incantation in rendering the gravity and grace and beauty of the ordinary world and thereby lending courage to strangers. This is a necessary thing."

"Forget everything you ever read about poetry, it doesn't matter - poetry is the last preserve of honest speech and the outspoken heart."

Never have I read something more true, or inspired about poetry. Truly, Keillor's book is worth the $10.88 alone for the introduction. It inspired me to write real poems shamelessly. Because if we really understand poetry, we understand that the whole point is to give strangers, friends, loved ones, children - courage. And I think we could all use a little more of that.

11 comments:

Brittany said...

First, I love Keillor's collections. He has wonderful taste.

Second, I had a similar experience last week. Someone in my writing class raised their hand and told us all how poetry is empty and cowardly because it doesn't say anything.

That person's words shocked me and brought tears to my eyes, not so much for my own hurt but for him. I felt so sad that he'd never felt what I'd felt with poetry. The best part was that I looked to my side and my friend in the class was also crying.

There are some of us out there. Some of us who sob for words when they cut us in half--really, I pray I never stop.

david-and-emily said...

I love this post, and I love how much you love poetry! So inspiring...

Mallory Camille said...

Thank you Mandy! Poetry is the most understood form of literature and I get sick of trying to convince people of how amazing it is. I love that statement about courage, poetry is that simple. I have Keillor's first collection, I need to check out the second one!

Christa said...

I love this..." - poetry is the last preserve of honest speech and the outspoken heart."

That is what I think of when I think of poetry that is honesty coming from the heart. I wish I was better at expressing my heart.

communikate. said...

Wow. What a beautiful intro!

Julie said...

That's my brother. :) I had to laugh out loud as I can totally see how he would do it. "I don't get it." You had referenced the book once so I bought it over the summer and read it on our way to interviews. Poetry really is so amazing and inspiring. And you're right, the intro is perfect, he totally sold me on the idea of loving it again. I know more people would love it too if they took the time to think through the deeper meanings.

Poetry of the Day said...

this is a really nice post

~ <3 Famous Poetry about life <3~

Julie Carol Standley said...

I love this post! & i love keillor's collections. So awesome!

Alycia (Crowley Party) said...

I loved the part "wake up, and die right"

emmakaren said...

I'm buying that book. I love poetry so much and your love for it is definitely one of the things that draws me to your blog. Thanks so much for sharing!

emilyf said...

Keillor is great. I LOVE poetry. Been reading some Billy Collins lately. Boy is he unbelievable. So simple, so clear. SO much good stuff out there