Friday, July 25, 2008

Introduction to poetry, a poem by Billy Collins.

Cecil Day-Lewis (father of the actor Daniel Day-Lewis) was an Irish-born poet, as well as Poet Laureate for Britain between 1968 to 1972, and, under the pseudonym of Nicholas Blake, a mystery writer. He once commented on his calling as follows:
"Why is it that nowadays, when poetry brings in little prestige and less money, people are still found who devote their lives to the apparently unrewarding occupation of making poems? Is the poet a quaint anachronism in the modern world - a pathetic shadow of the primitive bard who, unable for some reason to take active part in the life of his tribe, won himself an honorable place in the community by singing of the exploits of hunters and warriors? Certainly a poem is still a cry from solitude, an attempt the poet has made to break out of individual isolation and set down his experience in such a way that it can be shared by his fellow beings. And he still uses the power of incantation, of rhyme, rhythm and repetition, which the primitive bard employed to bind the social group together in a common emotion. But, while he is writing a poem, he is not aware of a need to communicate. He has two conscious motives: to create an object in words, and to explore reality and make sense of his own experience.
He wishes his object to be both self-contained and elegant - elegant in the sense that a mathematician will call an equation 'elegant.' The poem must stand up after the poet has got out from underneath it; it must apply beyond the individual experience out of which it arose and carry meaning beyond the poet's own time and social environment."

Here is one of my favorite poems about poetry:

Introduction To Poetry.

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

We'll get back to making change on Monday. In the meantime, have a wonderful weekend.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I like that. Lovely to read what you write! You are so well spoken and always have such interesting stories to tell.


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