This I Believe
(Robert Frost gave a lecture at Amherst College in the early 20th century, which was later transcribed and titled “Education By Poetry.”)
Before entering my junior year of high school I decided to take a course in Creative Writing and was exposed to things that were new in a way that had significance I could feel. New like a math theorem or a law of physics, but poetry is more universal to me than math ever could be. I found a medium that made sense, a vehicle that could carry anything. I was intrigued. I was seduced by the idea of intellectual thought. But I was also humbled by it. I learned more from poetry than I had from three years of gifted English.
I believe in education by poetry.
Now I’m not trying to make some vendetta in the name of Robert Frost, I’m not trying to glorify or create a false idol out of him or give credit where credit is not due. I’m not even claiming I completely understand Frost’s philosophy on poetry, but I take comfort in that.
Everything is a metaphor, Frost said. Calculus and physics, nature and evolution, art and thinking, all are metaphor. He knew everything in the world can be described by something else.
Poetry, to me, goes beyond metaphor and rhetorical devices, beyond heartbreak; it transcends the joy of the sounds, and the confusion that a good poem creates. To me it’s the idea of it, just the beauty of the closeness. Frost can put it better.
“The person that gets close enough to poetry, he is going to know more about the word belief than anybody else knows.” It is from this closeness he derived four beliefs: self-belief, love-belief, art-belief, and God- belief. Poetry is strong enough to house all these beliefs. It begins of something more felt than known, things that are believed into existence, that can’t really be explained.
I was given a gift by each of my favorite poets, individual lessons that I took with me. Li Young Lee taught me to slow down; Aaron Anstett put things in perspective; making the smallest things have cosmic significance and reducing the largest themes to nothingness; slam poets made it fun and expressive, made it loud; ee comings made it unconventional; Allen Ginsberg showed the importance of rambling, to proudly follow the beat of your own drum, and to frantically escape from bogus ideals society tries to pin.
Maybe that is everything that is great about poetry: the realization that someone else can say it better. I am humbled by it.
I believe I know more from having lived with poetry.
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