I believe that poetry is vital to humanity. It reminds me that all human beings are alike deep inside.
W.H. Auden wrote about the death of someone he loved:
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
These lines remind me that someone can lose something and still live and work and somehow continue. It is good to remember that, in the face of inconsolable sadness, beauty can still come. Auden probably knew that even as he mourned. That poem makes me love people more.
Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote this:
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.
This reminds me that love truly is more important than anything and that we should at least try to see it that way more often. This makes me love people more.
Here’s N. Scott Momaday:
What did we say to each other
that now we are as the deer
who walk in single file
with heads high
with ears forward
with eyes watchful
with hooves always placed on firm ground
in whose limbs there is latent flight.
This too reminds me to love people more and to be more careful with those I love and, more importantly, to be more careful with those I do not love. And that’s probably the most important part of this: to remember that those I do not love are like me and like the speakers in these poems.
Poetry reminds me that inside of everyone, no matter how severe, cold, foreign, optimistic, stoic, shy, happy, lonely, depressed, or infuriating a person is, they are like the speakers in poetry. All people struggle, love, mourn, fear, and wonder just like them and, in turn, just like me.
I believe poetry is vital to remembering this.
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