Thursday, April 30, 2009

Poetry Month

April is poetry month: Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month is now held every April, when publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, schools and poets around the country band together to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture. Thousands of businesses and non-profit organizations participate through readings, festivals, book displays, workshops, and other events. --

Well, April is about over. This month I was able to acquire a very rare 2nd edition of Marianne Moore's "Observations"--a much-sought book of poetry. It's difficult to get one's hands on a copy for much less than $1K, so I was pleasantly surprised to find this copy for $150.

I'll share one of the poems from "Observations entitled "Poetry:"

I too dislike it:
There are things that are important beyond all this fiddle.
The bat, upside down; the elephant pushing,
a tireless wolf under a tree,
the base-ball fan, the statistician--
"business documents and schoolbooks"--
these phenomena are pleasing,
but when they have been fashioned
into that which is unknowable,
we are not entertained.
It may be said of all of us
that we do not admire what we cannot understand;
enigmas are not poetry.

So that's an argument enshrined in poetry on what poetry is not. I'd like to argue one point about what poetry is good for.

I drive to work along nearly the same route except for rare occasions. I've needed to take a different route and then remember this half-way and have had to turn around. For a variety of mysterious reasons the human mind forms conventions and then once established, not much thought is necessary.

The comparison with electric circuits is applicable. After all, the brain connects one synapse with another and is said to use electricity. The more a circuit is used, the lower the impedance and then a path of least resistance is formed.

Good poetry I think causes thought to jump the track of conventional thinking and can produce an episode of rare discovery and learning. This is not only possible with the concepts treated by the poem within the world of ideas, but also with the words themselves of which the poem is composed.

A poem can cause one to admit something like "Had I not encountered this poem, I never in a million years would have associated those two things together" or "I would never have pictured that scene in exactly that way" or "I would never have thought to use that word."

Reading, thinking about and writing poetry is a good panacea to brain rot. It's an active rather than passive endeavor and can constitute a strenuous form of mental exercise. Happy reading. Your brain will love you for it.

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