Monday, September 15, 2008

Bits and Pieces: Poetry as Soul Food

In her new post over at the Good Letters blog, Peggy Rosenthal digs deeply into something I've known (believed? felt?) for quite some time: poetry is soul food.

This reminded me of several things (strung together below in a poetic train-of-thought-type manner):
  1. A quote I used to have up on my wall (and found again here):

    A poet is somebody who feels
    and who expresses those feelings through words.
    This may sound easy -
    it isn't.

    A lot of people think
    or believe or know they feel
    but that's thinking or believing or knowing, not feeling
    And poetry is feeling, not knowing or believing or thinking.

    Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know
    but not a single human being can be taught to feel –
    Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know,
    you're a lot of other people,
    But the moment you feel, you're nobody but yourself . . .

    -- e.e. cummings (?)

  2. Someone's (was it Kathleen Norris's?) comment a few years back at the Festival of Faith & Writing that poetry, for her, came out of word play or emotion, whereas prose came out of ideas (see my post on this idea).

  3. My MA supervisor's comment on how easy my thesis seemed to come for me, and my response that I was reading people who were writing calming things about the still point of the turning world, which made it the restful part of a turbulent year. Part of the reason I didn't mention is that I've often found Eliot's Four Quartets, along with the Psalms, particularly good poetic soul food.
Reading poetry also seems to do a good job of keeping my word play abilities alive, partly by reminding me that metaphor and symbol lives and that words are useful for more than straight exposition.

So yeah, a recommendation for those who'd like to read poetry on a daily basis: subscribe to Garrison Keillor's "The Writer's Almanac" for a daily dose of poetry in your inbox (it's also available by podcast and includes some interesting writer's bios each day as well).

1 comment:

zavorka said...

Hi, PK,
good points and good discussions!
I remembered, from the Irving's "Prayer for Owen Meany", the teaching skills there described and how to understand the style of Thomas Hardy.

Poetry as Soul Food, good point!
If "poetry came out of word play or emotion, whereas prose came out of ideas": prose/novels are the same as exercise for our body!
zavorka