Fearless Friday: The Power of Poetry

In a world where things sometimes seem dire, where does poetry fit in? How does it feed the starving? Find the lost? Rehabilitate the criminal? De-traumatize the victim? How does it stop corruption and hypocrisy? What is the point if it cannot automatically be processed, packaged, and monetized?

canstockphoto3647287.jpgBut then what is the point of anything, if we cannot have the joy of words, music, paintings, artistic movement? Why does any of it matter if we have nothing that fills our soul, connects us with our fellow humans, makes us imagine the what ifs?

Today, I’m focusing on poets who wield the power of poetry.

Welcome to Fearless Friday.

Feacanstockphoto13410470rless Fridays are about lives lived in spite of our fears, living a life that is about curiosity, compassion, and courage. If you just got published, something wonderful happened to you, you witnessed an act of kindness or bravery, or you have someone in your life who amazes you, drop your story into my contact page or email it to TheGreenStudy (at) comcast (dot) net and I’ll run it on a Fearless Friday. If you’re a blogger, it’s an opportunity to advertise your blog, but this is open to anyone who would like to share.  These will be 100-300 word stories, subject to editing for clarity and space.

Poets Writers Readers Bloggers Spies (maybe not spies, but how would we know?)

Poetry takes all forms and there are readers here who run with that. Some poems are stories, leaving us to divine the message. lifecameos from New Zealand tells all kinds of tales. Read her latest “Tea Party Chimps“. For Haiku, jokes, and fun art work, visit Steve at Heed Not Steve. And I’ve introduced her before, but Cate at Meditatio Ephemera just wrote about her own foray into poetry in the post “Donkey“.

And I’d like to welcome and introduce some new readers who are poets. I enjoyed reading “long Languished Days” at the Harp of Vega and a high school poet at Writings of Lexie, who reminds us of the intensity of school hallways.

The Necessity of Poetry

23649600Tim Miller at word and silence has served as an excellent resource for rediscovering poetry. His long narrative poem “To the House of the Sun” has long been on my reading list, but I wanted to finish Ovid’s Metamorphoses first, which is an undertaking. Recently, Tim felt compelled to respond to a critic in “Defending One’s Strangeness: on To the House of the Sun“, in which he says a lot about the nature of poetry and art and the choices he made.

You asked me about necessity, and I’d only say that it would have been spiritual death for me not to write the poem.   Defending One’s Strangeness: on To the House of the Sun

I’ve been thinking a lot about the rawness and profundity of that statement. It’s a reminder to stay connected with why we do what we do – a stalwart defense against cynicism.

Some of my favorites

Writing and music feel like part of my character. When someone asks me who or what my favorites are, I hesitate. I have an innate fear of always being too ordinary, too pedestrian. But if I’m going to talk about being fearless, I need to shove my cowardice and insecurity aside.

28014763Many years ago I tracked down a tiny book called The Gardener by Rabindranath Tagore. In my American way, I read a snippet and thought I must have that! It took awhile to arrive and when it did, I excitedly sat down to read it in full. Excitedly was the right word. It’s foreplay – sensual and romantic, quite unlike the random snippet I’d read.

We hasten to gather our flowers lest they are plundered by the passing winds.

It quickens our blood and brightens our eyes to snatch kisses that would vanish if we delayed.

Our life is eager, our desires are keen, for time tolls the bell of parting.

Rabindranth Tagore, The Gardener

With all the plucking and plundering and sighs and fluttering, I can’t help but hear Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On” when I read it.

The first poem that I ever memorized was William Wordsworth’s I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud. I will always love the lines: And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils. Melancholy and sweetness and gratitude. Who couldn’t use some of that?

I enjoy poems by Mary Oliver, W.H. Auden, Rita Dove, and Billy Collins. There are so many others – a poem here and there that lands just right, a balm, an inspiration, a truth. And if, in that moment, you cannot find what you need, it might be time to write a poem of your own.

Online Resources for Poetry

The Poetry Foundation

poets.org

Poetry International

Poetry International Web

Do you have a favorite poet?

Is there a line you always remember?

TGS Writers’ Book Club Reminder: The June Selection is a collection of poetry, Afterland by Mai Der Vang. Follow the blog for updated selections, writer-reader guidelines, and discussions. The July selection is There are Little Kingdoms by Kevin Barry (Short Stories).

23 Comments on “Fearless Friday: The Power of Poetry

  1. There are certain experiences or discoveries that almost seem to require poetry as a vehicle of expression. Its brevity, and its admission that a few well chosen words can do more to evoke the ineffable than many paragraphs of prose, can work wonders. I’m eager to check out some of these folks you’ve highlighted. Off to do so!

    Like

    • Sometimes when I’m bored with whatever project I’m working on or just stuck in general, I’ll pick up a collection of poetry and read from it. It always seems to knock the rust off – reminding me to use language economically, find the rhythm, and get to the point. I find that when I get back to writing, it is with an entirely different sensibility.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Wonderful reminder to appreciate writing, poetry, art, music and the things that can absolutely change the world in subtle ways. In eighth grade I chose to memorize “I Wander Lonely As A Cloud”. It has remained a favorite through all these years.

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    • I wanted to make a strong case for its impact on the world, but due to limitations of time and space and all that, I had to stop writing. In a world where people insist on using words as hammers, the subtlety and nuance of poetry requires more of us as readers and I like that. The Wordsworth poem always makes me think of gardening and that someday, when I’m too old or infirm to dig into the dirt, I’ll see in “my mind’s eye” a host of flowers.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the bow to poetry, Michelle, and also the generous mention (again). I’ve got “Afterland” in hand; this post makes a great incentive to read and share a book of poetry.

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    • I didn’t quite do it justice – juggling too many things today, but I got it out there. I’m looking forward to reading Afterland as well. I’m doing so much editing and writing of long form right now that it will be nice to slow down. I guess that’s the other thing about reading poetry – it carries an element of luxury with it. I sit down, put everything aside and sink into it.

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  4. My favorite poet is Kenneth Fearing, a Depression-era Socialist poet who put words together unlike anyone else I have ever read. His poem “Denouement” knocks my socks off every time I read it, despite its length (about 5 pages). The first stanza still takes my breath away. He wrote about and for the common man—with anger, social cynicism, and dignity comingling. I don’t think he ever got the recognition he deserved—probably because of his leftist leanings—but I wish he were here today to write about the injustices and absurdities that are so prevalent.
    The poem “Clearing” by Morgan Farley is like day to Kenneth Fearing’s night, but it, too, knocks my socks off every time I read it.
    I’m not a huge reader of poetry, but there are some that have the ability to transport me to a place of heightened awareness—they make me tingle.
    What a great topic for a Friday afternoon, Michelle!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll be sure to look up “Denouement” and added a link to your comment for “Clearing”. I’ve been trying to read more poetry, because it teaches me something about distilling language until what is left is what is important. I think it’s a good principle to apply to any kind of writing. Thanks for sharing some of your favorites, Donna!

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    • I was able to attend a lecture with Billy Collins last year and I was not familiar with his work prior to attending. When he read some of his poetry, I was delighted at the accessibility and gentle humor and now own several of his collections. I’ll have to look up Abigail Carroll’s work. Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

    • My earlier comment has not come through so here it is. thank you for your mention of my blog. I very much agree with “show it , don’t tell it”. A situation clearly defined can tell so much more and allow the reader to make their own assessment of that situation.

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      • You’re welcome. And thanks for sharing your favorite poets with us. I added a link in your comment to The Cheeseseller’s Wife blog. It’s interesting that when one tells a story, readers will find so many different meanings of their own and that’s the nature of art and music, once you create it, you’re done. Everything else is up to the reader.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you. Yes every reader and viewer makes their own interpretation. And thanks for thinking to add a link to The Cheeseseller’s Wife blog.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. What a statement by Tim Miller. I will be thinking about that for a while, too. My favorite poets include Mary Oliver, David Whyte, Jane Kenyon, Jane Hirshfield, and Marie Howe. I have to add a new favorite, Luanne Castle at writersite.org (where I met you thankfully!). I am reading, no devouring, her books Kin Types and Doll God. Her work has inspired me to revisit the past, through writing, and make something right that I feel I got very wrong years ago. Poetry heals.

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    • I think the phrase “spiritual death” is an important one. It’s so easy to lose focus on what really feeds us and we often recognize the consequences of that neglect too late.

      I would have added Luanne to this post as well, except that I featured her in an earlier post. Thanks for sharing some of your favorite poets!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Unfortunately, I did not discover your blog until “Fearless Friday” had passed. Coming perhaps a day late but hopefully not a dollar short is this priceless comment about poetry from the celebrated American poet Robert Frost whom I am paraphrasing:

    “Poetry helps you remember what you didn’t know you knew.”

    The statement brings to mind my first being “Frost-bitten” during my junior year in high school “back in the day” in the middle of the 20th Century. I recall that my English teacher required our class to memorize two poems: “Barter” by Sara Teasdale and “The Road Not Taken” by Frost, both of which I committed to memory and still know them by heart to this day. Most amazingly, by a rather circuitous route, I found myself teaching a composition and literature class forty years later, and I used both in that introductory course. In reflecting on my life, I recognize the truth of the closing lines of the widely recognized poem by Frost:

    The Road Not Taken

    Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth;

    Then took the other, as just as fair,
    And having perhaps the better claim,
    Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
    Though as for that the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same,

    And both that morning equally lay
    In leaves no step had trodden black.
    Oh, I kept the first for another day!
    Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
    I doubted if I should ever come back.

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.

    Robert Frost (1874–1963).

    Thank you so much for your blog and for encouraging comments about the power of poetry. Thanks also for following my blog. I am honored that you chose to do so.

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    • That Frost poem becomes more haunting the older one gets. I wish that I had memorized more poetry. We’ve become so accustomed to information at our fingertips, that we forget that rote learning for some things is good for our brains. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  7. Recently read Lyndall Gordon’s fascinating Emily Dickinson biography and that sent me back to her poems. Like Philip Larkin, she can write short poems of immense power. Here’s one by each –

    There is a pain – so utter –
    It swallows substance up –
    Then covers the Abyss with Trance –
    So Memory can step
    Around – across – upon it –
    As One within a Swoon –
    Goes safely – where an open eye –
    Would drop Him – Bone by Bone –

    What are days for?
    Days are where we live.
    They come, they wake us
    Time and time over.
    They are to be happy in:
    Where can we live but days?
    Ah, solving that question
    Brings the priest and the doctor
    In their long coats
    Running over the fields.

    Like

    • Thanks, Dave, for sharing those. I just read a Philip Larkin collection not too long ago – The Whitsun Wedding. I admit to not having read much Dickinson. She’s a little on the dark side and for me, that’s not always the best place to go. These days, I tend to be drawn to verse with a lighter touch.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The title poem of that Larkin collection is one of my favourite poems – a diffident opening becoming a full-hearted celebration. Know what you mean about Emily … but in our compromised world I kind of like her uncompromising ‘otherness’.

        Liked by 1 person

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