30 April 2012
These images are my ode to poetry through the language of the lens. Let me know which is your favorite.
As the last day of April retreats, poetry month will have been feted from coast to coast with readings and tributes. As we enter the heart of Spring through the hues of May, we should hold onto the enthusiasm perked by this attention to poetry. I hope this month that some of you discovered the power of the poetic form. In this age of diminutive word morsels it’s comforting to celebrate poems and poets.
Poetry can be sparse, lean and precise in a way that prose can, but often does not. Poetry scares, pushes us away and toward. As a lover of language, I applaud the well-composed poem, and rugged work that makes words fly into an aesthetic dance. Think: Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Lowell, Nikki Giovanni, William Wordsworth, Philip Larkin, Rainer Maria Rilke. A poem can incite the sensibilities in the briefest of lines and words. It astonishes me what can be accomplished with so little.
The Japanese haiku is a perfect example–a poem made of seventeen syllables (5-7-5) that colors nature and prompt the senses. In English we’ve re-interpreted the Japanese haiku, and sometimes moved from their usual themes. Truly, this form of poetry is worth getting to know.
Here is a sample from the Japanese master, Matsuo Basho:
No one travels
Along this way but I,
This autumn evening.
The future of grammar with the shortening of written communication is one of the discussions that English teachers, linguists and other word mavens ponder. Maybe poetry is an apt place to rearrange current practices. Oh, I’d love to receive a poem in a text (No, I do not tweet.).
At the end of each year I write an ode to the incoming one. Here is a sample from my tribute to 2010. It’s a long poem, which is followed by a shorter one written this morning.
Ode to 2010 (December 2009)
Language promoted us as though we needed saving,
rising to the occasion with foresight and re-invention.
Now shadowy drifts of years’ past lean forward,
and glide on the rim of the re-imagined.
As the subconscious watches,
Precision tries to reign in the conscious.
If chances were the answer,
We may have used ours.
Still, salvation can arrive in the unfamiliar.
Even as we struggle to comprehend an equation
that seems unsolvable,
Trust propels humanity to strike against all odds:
Some cast a greater persuasion than others.
While Mother Nature stitches a visible tribute to the details of life,
Victory tries to celebrate the timeless aesthetics of the universe.
Then harmony arrives,
And begins to translate each word as a poetic symbolic instrument.
Restitution (April 2012)
Bonjour May with your bright floral notes.
On the horizon is the anticipation of nature and human nature’s foibles and follies.
Where’s restitution for the earth’s struggling bounty?
In a May meadow of confluence? In the glory of hope?
So there is the long and short of it. Poems can be a beam of language’s possibilities. It’s hard work, just as prose is a tough job. Still, we can honor each for their place in the annuals of human creativity, wit, wisdom, and whimsy.
And while I am not sure of the outcome, I am going to encourage every teen to try a haiku. It just might change the way they text, tweet or respond to the new best thing. It’s worth it to challenge them.
Note: As always I welcome any comment about this post or any part of my blog. On April 21 the U.S. Postal Service issued a panel of twentieth-century American poets, among the ten honored are Elizabeth Bishop, Wallace Stevens, E.E. Cummings, and Gwendolyn Brooks. To see the entire issuance, click here. Also I dedicate this post to Adrienne Rich who died on March 27 at 82. Rich was instrumental in bringing attention to women’s writings, and is recognized as one of the most gifted poets of the twentieth and twenty-first century. Please visit Eve Redwater’s blog. As a young poet, her images and poems are worth the visit. Click here.