Pure Poetry

Posted: December 11, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty.

The other day, my wonderfully acerbic colleague, Ellen, happened to pick up a document at the shared office printer. Realizing her error, she brought it to my desk. She looked at the poem, a lovely one. It is an excerpt from Rumi, the Sufi mystic, which reads:


I died from minerality and became vegetable;

And From vegetativeness I died and became animal.

 I died from animality and became man.

 Then why fear disappearance through death?

 Next time I shall die

 Bringing forth wings and feathers like angels;

 After that, soaring higher than angels –

 What you cannot imagine,

 I shall be that.poeTRY

Ellen read it and said, “Wow, this is really marvelous.”

She continued, “Too bad it’s not marketable.”

We laughed at the absurdity, and I agreed with her.

Poetry isn’t a marketable skill, nor should it pretend to be.

The encounter reminded me of Robert Graves’ famous observation, “There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either.”graves

Work is work. Money is money. Poetry is something else entirely.

I am teaching Creative Writing this term, a seriously wonderful class for a literature-lover like me. I get to teach poetry! Poetry! This is a gem of a class.

Alas, teaching a ten-week course in Creative Writing requires me to face a rather formidable problem: covering poetry in three weeks, meaning six class periods, equally approximately twelve hours. How can I even begin to acquaint my students with the overwhelming splendors and stark despairs that populate the poetic landscape?

I’ve settled into a reliable strategy; the optimum way to learn how to write poetry is to read poetry.

Thus, I have shared a small sampling of my favorite poems with my students.

For our discussion of imagery, I gave them Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese.”

To help them experience metaphor and simile, I offered James Wright’s “A Blessing.”

And “Famous” by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Another sentimental favorite is Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Fish.”

Poetry is an extraordinary gift, so I send poems along in birthday cards and on the central celebrations that accompany life: wedding and births, even the unrelenting deaths.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Poetry encompasses all. As Whitman says, “I contain multitudes”.

In “Poetry,” Marianne Moore explains that poetry must contain “Imaginary gardens with real toads in them.” Poetry is the art that feeds on life.

Poetry reveals life, too, often in words and ways that are incomparably beautiful.

Writing poetry means summoning the courage to express human experience creatively. To put words on a frail, white page. To imagine a new thing into being, with the hope that it can, one day, aspire to be art.

It doesn’t matter how good my students’ poems are. It matters that when invited to write poetry, they feel inspired enough to undertake the task.

It is beneath poetry to be marketable.

Poetry is better than that.



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