National Poetry Month starts today, and as I’m all in delight I can’t quite wait all the way until morning to begin.
When I discovered that this month exists two years ago, for some reason it resonated deeply with me even though I hadn’t written or read poetry in very long. It’s easy for me to say, I’ve never lived a Spring like that one.
But why poetry? What’s the point to poetry? Someone recently asked me this, and for the past week now I’ve been trying to answer that question.
Poetry is exactly what it appears to be. It’s a bunch of words. But it has one thing in common with other bunches of words. Like them, it becomes a language. I think about what I’ve ever written of poetry: some things are reactions to what’s going on around me, some are hidden hopes and dreams, some are observations, and all are feelings. To me poetry doesn’t seem like fancy phrases, nor sorrow and gloom—though it can sometimes qualify as both. To me it’s a medium that enables speaking of something in its most human, most precise nature, a way of expression that spoken language—merely telling or describing to someone—falls short of.
It requires your heart, your brain, and your essence. It’s a space that invites you to work with words and meanings and how they bind together to say something. And it comes from a place within you that is otherwise hard to reach.
Poetry for me, is a way to communicate what feels most real.
On that note, for Day 1 I’m going to post a poem shared with me by a person very dear, someone who changed my life. And perhaps this was how I came to define poetry as I do today. This individual used a poem to describe how she had felt in a very difficult time of her life, when things had changed in a way that they could not change back, and she had felt the way this poem describes—like one whose vision has been obstructed, painfully by a splinter, and cannot be undone:
The Eye Mote, by Sylvia Plath
Blameless as daylight I stood looking
At a field of horses, necks bent, manes blown,
Tails streaming against the green
Backdrop of sycamores. Sun was striking
White chapel pinnacles over the roofs,
Holding the horses, the clouds, the leaves
Steadily rooted though they were all flowing
Away to the left like reeds in a sea
When the splinter flew in and stuck my eye,
Needling it dark. Then I was seeing
A melding of shapes in a hot rain:
Horses warped on the altering green,
Outlandish as double-humped camels or unicorns,
Grazing at the margins of a bad monochrome,
Beasts of oasis, a better time.
Abrading my lid, the small grain burns:
Red cinder around which I myself,
Horses, planets and spires revolve.
Neither tears nor the easing flush
Of eyebaths can unseat the speck:
It sticks, and it has stuck a week.
I wear the present itch for flesh,
Blind to what will be and what was.
I dream that I am Oedipus.
What I want back is what I was
Before the bed, before the knife,
Before the brooch-pin and the salve
Fixed me in this parenthesis;
Horses fluent in the wind,
A place, a time gone out of mind.