July 10, 2013

Poetry and Science - Deep forms of knowing

From an article discussing "difficult" poetry (like T. S. Eliot's The Wasteland, for example)... 

"Poems and poetry are, for me, a deep a form of knowing, just like science. Yes, obviously, they are different. But each, in its way, is a way to understand the world."

This perhaps explains why despite being trained in the sciences, I lean more and more towards poetry as I age; not for answers or the truth or meaning but sometimes just to make the days worthwhile! Others look to religion too for answers but for some of us that was a delusion we gave up a long time back! Or as the poet Wallace Stevens wrote: 

“After one has abandoned a belief in God, poetry is that essence which takes its place as life’s redemption.”

I quite empathize with this because although I have always read poetry, the amount of time spent reading poetry and reading about poetry has definitely increased in the last 5 years since I went through some tough times after the death of my father. In these 5 years, I've found myself going back to Wallace Stevens poems again and again; as if seeking some light, some form of redemption, some strength in words, some allusion of joy in words! His poems, in particular, are an intriguing mix of life lessons, but not in a cliched kind of way that bad poems can be! But in most of his poems, there is always something that immediately inveigles you in but very often leaves you on the fringes of understanding it completely. And although it is tough to explain to you why this is so, I believe it is this lack of complete understanding that makes me go back to them again and again. This is true of Stevens poems as well as the work of Ashbery but then there are obviously some poems whose works I do not understand at all and it does NOTHING for me. (Case in point, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets like Lyn Hejinian and some poems by Rae Armantrout come to mind but there are many others.)

In any case, I think of Stevens being a poet who I will continually be going back to for the rest of my life. After years of borrowing books of poems by Stevens and books about his poetry, I finally bought Stevens' Collected Poems last year when I found it in a used book store and coincidentally just this morning I found the book again while emptying out boxes of books; so I may read some more of his amazing but complex poems later tonight before going to sleep...so you may expect a few other posts about them in the next few days/weeks!

I'll leave you with an excerpt from one of many favorite poems of mine by Stevens ....

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