“Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.”—Audre Lorde (1934-1992)
I have always believed that poetry has a place in our daily lives, that it should have a strong presence beyond our high school English class or the often-confined literary subculture where it seems to thrive. Although my day often seem saturated with texts and tweets, stacks of periodicals and overflowing RSS feeds, it is poetry I turn to at all hours, for every occasion, to “give name to the nameless so it can be thought.” It is the images and lyricism, the language and the details of poems that help me mediate this baffling and broken and beautiful world.
One of the greatest pleasures in my reading of poetry is sharing works that resonate with me. And so I invite you to slow down for a few minutes whenever you can this month and read a poem–or 30. As I’ve done for the last three years, I will be posting a poem by a different writer each day. Except for this once, there will be no rambling discussion, just unadulterated verse.
Toward the end of his life, the formidable poet, physician, and red wheelbarrow driver William Carlos Williams wrote a long, meditative poem , “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower,” for his wife. I will spare you the longer excerpt (though I urge you to click and read) because I’ve already talked too much today, but I will leave you with the last few lines because they encompass, in less words and more beautiful language, why I believe poetry is vital to our lives.
My heart rouses thinking to bring you news of something that concerns you and concerns many men. Look at what passes for the new. You will not find it there but in despised poems. It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there. Hear me out for I too am concerned and every man who wants to die at peace in his bed besides.