So often I’ve heard in the course of conversation, others questioning the relevancy of poetry in contemporary times. Without enlisting hours of diatribe countering such skeptical reasoning in an attempt to convince them they are wrong, I’d prefer to take just a few minutes to simply respond in terms of the relevance it holds to me as a poet. You see, I’m convinced that poetry is not for everyone. Just as I am convinced that while I believe baseball is far more interesting on so many levels than football, there are people who will never have the capacity to see, if you’ll pardon my metaphor, the sheer poetry of a 6-4-3 double play.
You first have to accept that poetry is an artistic expression. I find many unable or unwilling to allow themselves to think of language in that light. I for example have no gift for math whatsoever and so I find algebra equations simply math that is difficult to understand, much the same way some people cannot get past language that challenges any preconceived notions of logic to be a turn off and will not make the effort to find the art within.
Gustav Mahler, the German speaking composer from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s in what is today the Czech Republic, once said, “If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music.” In any art form, the expression that is trying to find an opening to the rest of the word needs a medium to act as a doorway. It is in Mahler’s words that I believe I can best defend the relevancy of poetry as a poet. If there were a way to express myself at those times when that interior doorway is open- in a simple straight forward way perhaps I would not be a poet.
Rita Dove describes poetry is distilled and powerful language. Paul Engle suggests it is language raised to the Nth power. Whatever way you wish to describe it, it is different than ordinary language. If I could paint, perhaps I would open my interior self on canvass. I don’t, but I do paint with words on white pages. My art is poetry. Poetry is my medium of expression; it is therefore very much relevant to me even in these times.