Wednesday, January 11, 2006

On Poets Being Relevant

My birthday now past, safely tucked away in slumber, not to be awakened for another year. Thanks to all well wishers.

Birthdays are a strange commodity. When young, we can't wait till the next one. Somewhere along the line that of course changes and we (or at least I) would be happy if they seemed not so frequent. The alternative is guess is not particularly appealing and I suppose it would be good to temper whatever negative attachments we (or I) have to them with the obvious reality. Having another birthday requires living. So, here's to living with all the joys and sorrows it brings and hope for more of the first and less of the latter.

Living it seems is a critical part of poetry. We hear so much about dead poets but they had to be alive at one point to be poets. And I do think that many poets have a more than casual focus on mortality. I know I do. But I don't think that is so much because I have a fixation on death, but a lust for life and I understand that the absence of one is the other. Further, reality is that we will all at some point be dead. So it is, that I measure much of life in the context of these two extremes.

I cannot offer any scientific evidence, but I have a gut feeling that on the average, poets are much more highly charged with emotion than the rest of the population. We see colors more vividly; we hear things that others miss. We witness both higher and lower realms of emotion with greater intensity. These of course are generalizations on my part, but they are opinions, which I hold. I try to accept that these are gifts. Yes, at times some of this may seem like a curse but on the whole it gives us a richer experience with which to share our world view, whether we are talking about the beauty of a trickle of water across the rockbed of a brook or the horrors of war.

There's a quote that I'd like to share which I believe deeply reflect my view of the poet and his or her duty. Salman Rushdi once said, "A poet's work: To name the unnamable, to point at frauds, shape the world and stop it from going to sleep." When I think about that quote several things happen. One is that it is good that most poets seem to experience the intensities of life. Another is that because of this gift we have an obligation or duty to share with the world. And to that end, the final thought is that poetry really does matter.

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