Poetry

Novels & essays serve but will not last.
One clear stanza can take more weight
Than a whole wagon of elaborate prose.
Czeslaw Milosz

As I stand at the threshfold of a new millennium, I stand reassured that in a thousand years from hence poetry shall thrive still, for wherever there is human existence there dwells, as always, the sovereign art of Poetry. She -for surely the poetic spirit is of the fairer sex – exists from age to age in perpetuam; the verve of life & the ebullience of every age. As man invented boats to cross the oceans of the world, he invented poetry to cross the waters of the soul. Her vessel is metaphysical with William Hazlitt praising her omniscient abilities;

She cannot be constrained by mastery, she has the range of the universe, she traverses the empyrean, & looks down on nature from a higher sphere.

But what exactly is poetry? Observe the secret ingredient which raises the ordinary to a higher station. Let us take a football… on its own not a very poetic object. But, when slam’d into the back of the net in the last minute of a World Cup Final… that ball has become infused with poetry. Poetry is everywhere. She can be found in actions, events, emotions, thoughts, places. She can be found in the hills & lanes of nature; from a flight of dragonflies dancing cross your path to the ruins beneath smoking Vesuvius; She can be found in the gardens at Giverny to Scott’s last, frostbitten entry in his snow-sprinkled diary. Wherever she abides, poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, shedding elysian light upon the secret chambers of the brain, & grants an expression to many unsaid things. Thro’ the blossom, fragrance & golden cadence of her elegant wordsmiths, Humanity is taught best how to articulate the particular rhythms & diction of each birthright, the language of our mother & of our native land. Poetry is the natural arbiter of speech, whose champions have enriched, refined & deepened the way we talk to each other, preserving all our twanging dialects within her numerous folds.

She is music, philosophy, painting, mathematics, language, science, geography… & at the same time a mystery on the fringes of Human reason. She is an inspiration for art… without the German epic poem, The Neibelungen, Wagner would not have perceived the grandeur of his majestic operatic cycle. Even then, without the poetry of his libretto, could he have ever put words into the mouth of Seigfried. ‘Genuine poetry,’ said T.S. Eliot, ‘can communicate before it is understood.’ It is was when, as a young man, as I was sitting in the magnificent opera house in Vienna, listening to Parsifal sung in an unfamiliar tongue, that I for the first time truly sens’d the power of my art. The poetry of a foreign language is still poetry, when true meaning is less understood & more felt in the soul.

The breadbasket of Poetry is the creative imagination; a superb palatial hall, resplendent in the mind, where reside, ‘the best & happiest moments of the happiest & best minds,’ where experiencing poetry should, ‘strike the reader as a wording of their own highest thoughts.’ She is a glue which binds together many differing things, some vast repository of truth at once at the center & at the circumference of human existence, commingling together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human society,

Like a tangible & grandiose mirror she reflects ages past, a living fossil which stores multiple zeitgeists within her sculptur’d pages. Who remembers the Merovingian kingdoms of the Franks? They had little culture to speak of & this great empire has slid into the shadows of posterity. Oppositewise, the ballads of Iolo Goch, Owen Glendower’s partisan poet, both contributed to & archived the Welsh rebellion against British rule, a body of work which has subsequently raised that prince to the mantle of international hero.

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One of her highest achievements of is to paint a sequence of images in the malleable mind, a narrative of the imagination, connecting the receiver one-by-one to a variety of human emotions, inviting us to create mental pictures to the words supplied – in short, a cinema of the mind. In the twelfth century, an Arabian poet called Averroës stated that poetry’s function is takhyil, the invoking of wonder-arousing images in the listener’s imagination. Sidney summ’d up this chief function when he proffer’d that, ‘poetry has the power to reproduce an ideal golden world!’ To assist the receiver, these images are wrapp’d up in the inate music latent within words, whose hypnotic rhythms lull the listener into an open state of mind. This is known as the CHAUNT, & from the sonneteer reading a sonnet to his beloved by a stream, or the mass Mushaira readings of Pakistan, a recital is Poetry in its most natural state. Witness the unique & magnetic tone of the reciter altering their voice in the same manner as when we change ours to speak to elderly ladies, students, babies or dogs. Recitation casts a spell over the audience, the soul-vibrations of the reciter lending their own faculties to the original text as their voice rises, ‘like a steam of rich, distill’d perfumes.’ The listener exists, for a time, in the dilated sphere of the poet’s intellect, listening to the words & music in a mystical meeting of souls.

There is a problem, & probably one of only fallow, but in this modern age of digital television & playstations, where everything is done for the imagination, the glory of Poetry, this majestic phantom of the human mind, has fallen into much neglect. The Entelechial nature of poetry as a teacher of truth is easily realised these days by drama & tragedy in film, television & book form. Bereft of its originial purpose, Poetry has rather become like a rudderless raft set loose on the seas of Humanity, with no real purpose of being. To address this sad matterstance must become the chief pursuit of the poets.

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