1) There was an article in the New York Times very recently that was actually about the status of poetry in an age of prose. It was basically good news.
But, along with prose, we also live in an age of talking points and fake news, fake investigations, and reality shows that aren’t real. Personal offense and outrage often completely replace reasonable discussion and debate. Poetry is one of the last vestiges of un- sanitized and articulate language.
2) It follows that poetry is the language of the truth- teller. You shall know the truth and it shall set you free, but only if someone tells it. People complain about the ridiculously unintelligible poems that have been foisted upon us as simply too high- brow for mere mortals to understand. Some of them are hilariously indecipherable. But, metaphors are a delivery system for conveying the often brutal and ugly truth. The whole world is mourning Maya Angelou for a greater reason than she wrote pretty poems. She had supremely important things to say and did so perfectly. She made us understand and care.
3) Poetry is the language of protest and rebellion. Pick practically any of Bob Dylan’s songs and you will find a blend of protest and prophesy. There are too many to name, but “ Hurricane”, “ Desolation Row”, “ Like a Rolling Stone” and “ The Times They are a Changing”, come to mind. I am not a rabid Dylan fan, but how could “Tangled up in Blue” be anything but pure poetry?
It follows that a song is a poem that happens to rhyme. Lyrics are a delivery system for protest and rebellion that makes them not only palatable but beautiful. I don’t mean to insult all of the Pulitzer Prize winners and poet laureates out there, but some of this brand of poetry is amazingly poignant. There is a song by Lily Allen called “ The Fear” that is so richly and sadly satirical it will leave you breathless, particularly the second verse..
4) There is a language deep in the soul that cannot be conveyed with perfect grammar, sentence structure and sanitized language, and poets are fluent in and understand soul-speak. With the exception of the “Begats”, poetry is also the language of the Bible. Whether one believes in the literal truth of the words contained in its covers or not, the cadence and beauty of them can be inspirational in and of itself. The Psalms, The Song of Solomon and Proverbs are pure poetry. But, so is the rest of it. Isaiah is replete with gorgeous poetry. Case in point:
For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my
covenant of peace shall not be removed…O afflicted one,
storm- tossed and not comforted, behold, I will…lay your
foundations with sapphires. (Isaiah 54:10)
5) Ever been to a Poetry Slam?
Poets are warriors, wearing their hearts on their sleeves and doing battle to defend them.
They are necessary insurgents, becoming catalysts for reform, change, honesty and transformation.
They are conduits to spiritual healing, growth and transformation, speaking and interpreting soul and spirit- speak. This is the very infrastructure of humanity and progress- not fluff.
We are everywhere; not just on some remote Isle of Tweed and Berets, or hanging out at Starbucks. We might even be your neighbors, you never knowJ
We are society’s detoxifiers, like a great big cleansing and centering breath.