I believe in the power of poetry, to provoke and inspire.
Poetry is more like a typographical-visual art. It is very subjective, there are many different styles and fonts, and critics don’t agree on what makes it good. What’s more, a single poem can get better or worse with age and scrutiny.
What I believe about poetry is that it has the potential to inspire people who are drowning and confound people who seem content. Poetry is not something that one can learn or get good grades at. It is something that can touch your soul. Rationality rarely has a hand in its appeal or revulsion.
The poet’s words are often deeply personal, yet they can be a beacon in a storm or a red siren in the mist, bringing comfort or fear to distant readers. The poet can also be the master of observation, running the camera at opportune (and inopportune) moments.
When I was 16, I competed in a poetry reading and had chosen “Lady Lazarus,” by Sylvia Plath, to orate. Afterward one of the judges declared she was glad Sylvia Plath was dead. That was 1981, the year before Plath received a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for “The Collected Poems.”
When I was a sophomore in college, ignoring my interest in literature and seeking an anthropology degree, one of my college professors recited a Wendell Berry poem. By the end of it, he was weeping … much to the chagrin of almost the entire class. But, it was at that moment I knew I couldn’t mask my love of poetry and literature anymore. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature.
Then … I met the Emperor of Ice Cream. As a wild-eyed twenty-something, I met a man who wrote poetry, worked in a library and loved Wallace Stevens. And, many times through our 16 years of marriage, I have thought about the Emperor of Ice Cream. “Let be be finale of seem.” What “seems” to us all is a seam of reality. We have warts, and love and fear and pain. Poetry can reflect that. It can honor that. It affirms our humanity and challenges our sense of ourselves.
I believe in the power of poetry to open the cage doors and let our souls fly.
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