Poems help

on June 1, 2007 with 0 comments » |

As I wrote a short while back, the introduction by Garrison Keillor to his collection of poems - Good Poems for Hard Times is a vigorous sell for the power of poetry, if one was ever written.

Although reading the introduction in its entirety is highly recommended to get the full scope, I transcribe here a paragraph that struck a chord with me.

The meaning of poetry is to give courage. A poem is not a puzzle that you the dutiful reader is obliged to solve. It is meant to poke you, get you to buck up, pay attention, rise and shine, look alive, get a grip, get the picture, pull up your socks, wake up and die right. Poets have many motives for writing . .

... but what really matters about poetry and what distinguishes poets from, say, fashion models or ad salesmen is the miracle of incantation in rendering the gravity and grace and beauty of the ordinary world and thereby lending courage to strangers. This is a necessary thing. At times life becomes almost impossible, and you curl up under a blanket in a dim room behind drawn shades and you despise your life, which seems mean and purposeless, a hoax and a cheat, your shining chances all wasted, pissed away, nobody can change this or make this better, love is lost, hope gone, nothing left but to pour a glass of gin and listen to weepy music. But it can help to say words. Moaning helps. So does prayer. God hears prayer and restores the souls of the faithful. Walking helps. Many people have pulled themselves up out of the pit by the simple expedient of rising to their feet, leaning slightly forward, and putting one foot ahead of the other. Poems help.

A few more sentences later in the introduction that were also interesting.
How often in the past week did anyone offer you something from the heart? It's there in poetry. Forget everything you ever read about poetry, it doesn't matter -- poetry is the last preserve of honet speech and the outspoken heart.
and later..
Poetry is church. What animates poetry is faith, the same faith that moves the builder and the butcher.
..ending the introduction with:

This is a book of poems that if I knew you better and if you were in a hard passage I might send you one or two of along with a note, the way people used to do, believing in the bracing effect of bold writing. Whether you stole the book, bought it used or remaindered, found it on the bus, got it from your son for Christmas, I hope it does you some good. That was the reason for putting the poems together. These poems describe a common life. It is good to know about this. I hope you take courage from it.

However, like I wrote before, he does sell (and sometimes over-sell) poetry and its power.... this para below being a clear case of overstating the case :)

America is in hard times these days, the beloved country awash to the scuppers in expensive trash, gripped by persistent jitters, politics even more divorced from reality than usual, the levers of power firmly held in the hands of a cadre of Christian pirates and bullies whose cynicism is stunning, especially their perversion of the gospel to blast the poor and the meek and subvert the tax system in favor of the rich, while public institutions are put in perpetual financial crisis meanwhile newspapers dwindle in sad decline, journalism is lost in the whirlwind of amusement, and the hairy hand of the censor reaches out -- what mustn't be lost in this dank time, is the passion of young people for truth and justice and liberty -- the spirit that has kept the American porch light lit through dark ages of history -- and when this spirit is betrayed by the timid and the greedy and the naive, then we must depend on the poets. American poetry is the truest journalism we have. What your life can be, lived bravely and independently, you can discover in poetry.

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