on poetry

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Every once in a while I realize I’ve lost my poetry — that subtle, transcendent quality of noticing and responding to the vagaries of this world. Instead of having that I get bogged down by reality, thinking it really is reality. At times I consider I merely need a muse to arise, to shine into my life, to inspire those deeper parts of my soul that get tired and bored without intersoul contact.

But then I realize for the poetry to be real the muse may only be yet another object for the light to fall upon, a subject, may she be a beautiful subject, of study and research and pondering and purpose, but not the source for the poetry itself.

So, when I realize these things I remember that to find the poetry at all I must find it in my lonely, lost, and tendentious self. Because, the fact is, when I can find it, everything else seems that much more filled with light, even those parts that have yet only had persistent darkness.

I like what the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh had to say:

I would not object if some critic said I wasn’t a poet at all. Indeed, trying to think of oneself as a poet is a peculiar business. What does it feel like to be a poet?

I am always shy of calling myself a poet and I wonder much at those young men and sometimes those old men who boldy declare their poeticality. If you ask them what they are, they say: Poet.

There is, of course, a poetic movement which sees poetry materialistically. The writers of this school see no transcendent nature in the poet; they are practical chaps, excellent technicians. But somehow or other I have a belief in poetry as a mystical thing, and a dangerous thing.

A man (I am thinking of myself) innocently dabbles in words and rhymes and finds that it is his life. Versing activity leads him away from the paths of conventional unhappiness. For reasons that I have never been able to explain, the making of verses has changed the course of one man’s destiny. I could have been as happily unhappy as the ordinary countryman in Ireland. I might have stayed at the same moral age all my life. Instead of that, poetry made me a sort of outcast. And I was abnormally normal.

I do not believe in sacrifice and yet it seems I was sacrificed. I must avoid getting too serious.

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