In a way, we poets are our own audience. From Birmingham to Berkeley to Burma we discover one another, a common ground established between the pages of our books or online presence, a sharing that goes beyond the language of understanding of one another. For me, poetry is closer to the sense of smell than it is to the art of discourse. It is more a way of feeling with someone than talking to someone; a way of reclaiming a shared inner sense of the world.
It works like this: poetry is a kind of thinking that gets where it wants to go only by heading in the opposite direction. For example, by concentrating on not telling the truth. The reason there is nothing as useless as yesterday’s news is that it has successfully fulfilled its function. The news, once told, is no longer. For me, even as I am the poet writing my own poem, if I understand it too soon, I ruin it for myself. Poetry succeeds by putting on a mask in order to see itself, by glancing sidelong, by sneaking up on the subject matter, by surprise, by music, by sleight of hand, by illusion, by verbal magic!
For the writer as well as the reader, poetry operates through:
- A state of suspended cynicism.
- An unsystematic derangement of the senses.
- A willingness to see parts as wholes.
- To invest oneself in pieces of things, or places, or people, and to raise that investment to the level of vision, of how it might be seen, a personal vision.
The Art of Poetry
Once more, buddy, your last ride
has left you behind and nothing can be done.
You want someone to come, a silver angel,
to seize your hair and lift you from the earth.
But the weight of your two feet
presses against the ground. No one comes
to save you. It’s too cold to stand still
and too dark to run.
Once more, buddy, you write
to save yourself. Here’s the barn.
Here the horses are warm. Here, on a dark
night, between towns, between meals,
simply the heat of other animals is enough.