Monday, July 30, 2007

What Is Poetry? - Martin

When I was asked, a couple years ago, to express my view about what poetry is, I immediately thought about the things I tell the students I teach. For example:
What’s even more important than what a poem says, is how it says it!
but this is not English class...

Poetry is Jacob wrestling with the angel...Not a sermon of theology...Not the literal translation... Not a retelling of something that happened long ago...Not an explanation...Not an application...Not even the words that carry the weight of narrative.

Poetry is the wrestling...the experience...Poetry is having your hip pulled from it’s socket so that you’re never the same again...Poetry is a new creation...Our word poem comes from the Greek “the things that are made”, as in — “We are his workmanship...” — God’s poem.

Dana Gioia has said, “Poetry is the art of using words charged with their utmost meaning”. Wallace Stevens put it simply, “The purpose of poetry is to contribute to man’s happiness”. I hope the poetry I write brings happiness to readers such as yourself.

I believe God uses poetry in the Bible, because poetry requires a discipline quite similar to that required for spiritual attentiveness. Poetry forces us to slow down and reflect upon truths carefully wrapped in a text. Poetry draws us into understanding beyond what linear thought patterns permit. Poetry opens us to beauty and things of the heart — not just things the head can process.

Poetry is the Spirit of God moving on the face of the waters...The Creator himself walking in the garden in the cool of the evening...Poetry is the valley of the shadow of death...the four horsemen of the Apocalypse...Poetry is the inexplicable in the parables of Jesus...Poetry is even a pharisee swallowing a camel.

Poetry helps me understand this thing called life. I see the world differently because I read and write poetry. One topic that seems to creep into much of my writing is Redemption. I don’t only mean redemption as a spiritual concept, but also how value and beauty come from things previously cast aside. Similar to “the stone the builders rejected”.

Poetry is a search for beauty and truth, which means, of course, a search for the goodness of God.

D.S. Martin is the author of So The Moon Would Not be Swallowed (Rubicon 2007) which is available through his web site:

1 comment:

Belinda said...

Wow! I loved reading this highly poetic definition of poetry!

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