What’s the point of poetry?
Most people don’t have much ‘use’ for poetry. Its mysteries and meanings don’t reveal themselves easily; the storyline is not always clear. What use is poetry?
Poetry’s power (its use if we must) is that it is both cathartic and transformative. It is a tool and a gift. Poetry gives form to the mystery and representation to emotion.
Once, several years ago, I went on a writing retreat where I didn’t write. Alone in this one bedroom back house on the northernmost tip of my island, I was in an internal torrent about a guy (this was actually the turning point for me to heal some serious relationship issues I held, but that’s another story).
To manage this torrent of feelings, anxiety and emotion, I went to the wild cliffs—where the land drops abruptly into an unfathomed blue, capped with the white ravages of wind—and I wrote poetry. Raw, unfiltered (probably bad) but cathartic poetry.
Channeling my emotion into words, they left the silence and surfaced, and, as such, transfigured their ties to me. Poetry can be an excellent to to exercise our demons, and conversely, to celebrate our experiences. To begin writing poetry, turn off your mind. Turn off your critic. Silence your logical thinker. And feel. Put words to color, emotion and experience. Enjoy the feeling of drawing form from the silence. Play in it. You might find it’s a delightful, euphoric, possibly purgative, experience.
Try it. Not many here (I don’t think) will be using poetry as our means to live, but it might just give you another avenue of living, and that’s worth more than gold.
Reading poetry changes your chemistry as well. It’s a beautiful, holy thing to give yourself the time to read and digest a poem. We may not always understand them, but there is invariably a message for each of us contained in the poems we read.
I’ll share two poems with you. One from one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver. The other is mine, as part of my 48 Day of Creative Devotion (which I’m using to write a novel, but this one day, a poem emerged instead).
– Ashley Welton
Thick and rough with age
Limbs bent from bearing years
A heart, wide with living, beats without a pulse.
Lean on me, you whisper—
your arms a sweeping welcome.
Trust-falling into you,
I let my head tip back,
and breathe your woody salve.
Fingers rest on wizened surface,
eyes shadow dappled light.
the weight lift.
With scent of pine on my skin,
I fly into the stillness.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Love and poetry,