It doesn’t matter how modern and technocentric we get, we’ll always need poetry. As long as we haven’t morphed into cyborgs, as long as we’re human, we’ll yearn for it. Even if it’s not your cup of tea, I believe it is essential to remind us of another way of looking at the world.
I use poetry to soothe my heart and light up my brain. To me it is beautiful, meaningful, and evocative. The most powerful poetry takes me to another place. That is its potency.
Carl Sandburg – a poet god – wrote the most stunning descriptions of it. He has 38 definitions of poetry, but I’ll share just a few with you here…
15. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable.
21. Poetry is a sliver of the moon lost in the belly of a golden frog.
36. Poetry is the achievement of the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.
38. Poetry is the capture of a picture, a song, or a flair, in a deliberate prism of words.
Poetry is an evolving art form. Typcially, it’s carefully crafted words set to a rhythm. But really, there are no rules. That’s the best thing about it.
I think the best poetry on this planet is distinguished by this: IT MOVES US.
Good poetry expresses a common humanity we feel. It gives voice to emotions we struggle to speak. It has the ability to give us a sense of wonder.
World Poetry Day came and went last week. I tried to make a list of some of my favourite poets.
Dickinson, Frost, Tennyson, Keats, A.A. Milne, Rossetti. And, of course, Thomas. He was atop my list. I wrote about Dylan Thomas recently here. I adore him. Fern Hill is exquisite. I could read it again and again and never tire.
I also remembered how much I love this Thomas poem.
Being But Men
Being but men, we walked into the trees
Afraid, letting our syllables be soft
For fear of waking the rooks,
For fear of coming
Noiselessly into a world of wings and cries.
If we were children we might climb,
Catch the rooks sleeping, and break no twig,
And, after the soft ascent,
Thrust out our heads above the branches
To wonder at the unfailing stars.
Out of confusion, as the way is,
And the wonder, that man knows,
Out of the chaos would come bliss.
That, then, is loveliness, we said,
Children in wonder watching the stars,
Is the aim and the end.
Being but men, we walked into the trees.
There are contemporary poets I love too. I love the way Luci Shaw gives texture to nature and God. I love the way Seamus Heaney evokes dimensions of the Irish soul.
I was talking about World Poetry Week with some friends, and one friend shared a poem he wrote. It left me speechless. Breathless, in fact. I am still reeling in it’s beauty.
I’ve sought his permission to share it with you here too. So, thank you Phil Zylstra – you are an exceptional thinker and feeler. I hope that everyone in the universe gets to hear your words one day and be as moved as I am. Thank you for filling us with a sense of wonder.
Here’s a foreword from Phil to introduce his poem:
“I wrote this once after a cold south-west wind had come in during the night. I stood outside and watched the sun rise blood red, the wind was cold enough to bring tears and the odd hard little flake of sago snow was flying through it”.
The Old Wind
Oh the aching,
Talking trees and the burning of the eyes;
There is no name for this but years have lost themselves overnight and my heart is too small for the singing.
This light I know like a lover from a dream –
Like no true dawn
But a break of lost years stirred to fire in the depths of the night.
How can I speak?
The Old Wind has struck me dumb and I have no answer
For the creak of branches or the hush of leaves,
Memories walk that I have not seen, but know.
They have been changed by the snow wind and the mountains remember them pure.
No pain can live but that this hour will not last eternally –
Where the Wildness walks,
And an unguarded man may find himself
Awash with blood in the first light of morning –
Clean, and waiting for the snow.