My love of poetry can’t be burned. A giant flame itself. I want to light other hearts with this heat — “a heat and a passion which are of the nature of existence itself.” That quote is by poet Robin Blaser and he is the poet that changed my life—I’ll tell you that story soon.
For now, know this — what the poet feels and knows is what all human beings desire to feel and know. This is not an impossibility. You can know it. You can feel IT. Poetry is real.
Lately I have been wanting to define my love of this mysterious IT in a capacity far better than I have ever done before. I have wanted to point to something so intangible and definition-less; to be able to show someone I love (struggling on earth) the REALITY of this silent song.
Sometimes I wish poetry was a bit easier to talk about. I secretly dream I could purchase it at a drive-through window & deliver it in a paper bag; send it up into the sunset like a small blue balloon; fly to its property and spend a week breathing its air; or maybe (I’ve thought) just wearing its sparkle out to a shitty bar, then winking it toward someone’s pain would be enough.
Then I am glad poetry is hard to talk about. I know that poetry’s mystery (its intangibility) is the exact reason why engaging with poetry can and will transform your life. It is an awareness of the subtle, barely-visible change (when nothing really changes) that makes all the difference.
Often people will ask WHY I love poetry so much. They want to know what it offers me and how I “use” it. I spent many years being uncomfortable talking about poetry’s “uses” for I don’t believe poetry is something we can use (like shampoo, dishwashers, or a wad of cash).
But, I have decided, it does have uses.
Enter: My Summer of Robin Blaser. That turned into my year with Robin Blaser. I wrote a comp exam and my dissertation on poet Robin Blaser. For this reason, I spent many months with him in my sheets. We ate yogurt and granola in the mornings. Drank ice tea in afternoons. Took tubs together he and I. We even went to Hawaii.
As I read and thought; read and thought; thought and read and thought, thought some more I was journeying, I was journeying with a companion who cared; who cared about the use of art; cared about poetry; who cared about humans and “The Recovery of The Public World.”
“The Recovery of The Public World” this is a title of an essay by Robin Blaser. This was the essay that changed my life. The essay is about the lack of conversation ‘between the discourses of the the political and the sacred.’ It is an essay about how the arts (the humanities) are that missing conversation. It is about how the arts are not honored in a public way to tell the story ‘by which man and woman became Man and Woman.” It is even about how art has lost its sacred and ancient teachings. Art (Poetry) was originally sacred (enter, a new direction of my life, recovering this public message). Blaser takes the title of his from Hannah Arendt. The title is not so important, but this idea of recovery is. This one word supplies the answer to these questions:
Why Poetry? Recovery.
Why should you learn poetic wisdom? To recover something you’ve (we’ve) lost.
What does a poem actually offer you? The ability to get your (our) power (humanity) back.
Can poetry really help you? Yes, it can help you with your (our) recovery.
Why should you care about poets and the things they say? Recovering [something in your humanity (or our humanity) that has been lost and you (we) care about] is important.
So how does poetry help you recover (“get back” as the etymology suggests) that thing you’ve lost…
- inner peace
- etc. ?
Here is Blaser’s answer.
At the end of the essay Blaser announces (and quotes Arendt):
We need to know how old we are in the events of human consciousness … We need to know how old we are. We need to trace the consciousness of that aging. In order to gain “an attitude that knows how to take care and preserve and admire the things of the world.” Perhaps, then, we could turn with greater assurance and finer judgment to the modern project which is devoted to change.
Gain an attitude that knows how to take care and preserve and admire the things of the world AND turn to a project which is devoted to change.
There is something magical that happens when you really start to listen to the poets. To listen to their concerns. To begin to view the world from their eyes. To learn how to admire in the deep way a poet admires. To take-care in the deep way a poet takes-care. To preserve in the deep way a poet preserves.
Have you ever noticed that all great orators (presidents, activists, politicians, Oprahs) quote the poets? They do so because poetry is powerful agent of change. It is a language that teaches us about the sacred nature of our life and opens something inside of us to act, to make, to go forth and change our way of being. It is a language of inspiration and it puts us into contact with that mysterious force.
Poetic utterance is the type of utterance that isn’t self-circling. It is human-circling. It is world-circling. It is a voice that comes from within to share a vision for the broader soul and energy of mankind. I do believe when we involve ourselves in the pursuit to hear our own inspiration and then make change happen in our personal lives, we are in line with the care and admiration of the poets.
We are serving the great nature. We have entered the sacred space of art. We have begun traveling and touching our humanity and we are recovering the things (for so long) we thought we’d lost. The feeling of this journey is so satisfying and insatiable. What more could we truly want?