I am tired of the many weird, false ideas about poetry. Mind you, I am a poetry ignoramus, but my stupidity has never stop me from pontificating before — so here I go.
First, just like my posts on homeopathy, I hope my posts on poetry will illustrate habits of human emotion and reasoning that are also seen in religious thinking. But that should not be surprising, because they all come from the same human mind. My point is that though some people may feel superior because they are free of the normal human religious superstitions, the posts points out that confusion is pervasive and that religions have absolutely no monopoly on delusions — a theme of this blog.
Poetry is often attributed all sorts of magical, mystical properties. I will use this post to list examples I find. Poetry, like dance, sculpturing, painting, music, novel writing and much more, is just another form of human creative expression — it is not the voice of God, the Divine, the Cosmos, Nature, the Real Self or anything else. Arghhhh!
David Orr, a poet critique in the New York Times, has a fun book called: “Beautiful & pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry”. On page two he laments that a common belief about poetry is: “[it] is the pure expression of our inner lives. It is the prism through which the soul is glimpsed.” On pg xiv he says “We seem trapped between a tediously mechanical view of poems and an unjustifiably shamanistic view of poetry itself”. The people who read poetry in hopes of reading their own personal shaman abound .
For example, today I noticed that James McGrath has moved his Liberal Christian blog to Patheos. One one of the many blogs there I read this nauseating piece:
Can Poetry Heal the Planet: “As texts for spoken word, Stephen Levine’s poems kindle higher consciousness. Aloud, they awaken awareness — words become stepping stones.”
— from a blog review of Levine’s book: “Breaking the Drought.”
Seriously!? Could you imagine titles like “Can Novels Heal the Planet?”, “Can Sculptures Heal the Planet?” — not to mention the notion of kindling “higher consciousness”?.
I have intermittently read poetry over the years hoping it would click with me and I’d become a better person. 🙂 Yet for decades nothing clicked, I thought I must be soulless. But in the last 5 years I have started to enjoy some poetry and even write occasionally. I now I feel freer to say that part of my blind spot to poetry was all the false myths that clouded it as an art form. Now without the myths, I can enjoy some poetry. Funny, as I write this, I hear some emerging and liberal Christians saying the same thing about their Christianity.
Whether a poem, a dance, a sculpture, a song, a sight, a smell, a touch or a mathematical formula captures, inspires, lightens or frees your mind, it is not the form, not the vehicle but you and yuan.