Friday, June 29, 2012
Why Fear Poetry, Eh?
I have used the above illustration before, but on one of my poetry sites so it's a pretty sure thing nobody's seen it. It shows me driving my friend Willie downtown in a 1971 VW bus. What has this to do with poetry? It was Willie introduced me to poets like Ginsberg and Brother Antoninus via Rosset's Evergreen Review back in the '60s. This was the poetry of life, written to help us navigate the universe. It was on coffee tables. People read it --strong, gentle voices among many.
Willie also introduced me to the poetry of Marguerite Duras, Dylan Thomas, and participated in the Ferlin-exchange. He held forth on the importance of Ferlinghetti while I extolled the lyricism of Ferlin Husky. These discussions were often punctuated by the word "eh?" Even as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, my VW bus had an assertive horn. It went "Beep!". It hadn't the startling dissonance of American-made horns that combined obnoxious atonalities into auditory tantrums. It was dignified. And over the years got more pensive, quiet and interrogative. Now it goes "eh?"
Oh certainly we are put off by pedants who ostentatiously condescend to improve my...I mean, our ignorance, or that dreary class of poets whose compilations consist of one damn suicide note after another. They dishearten us, leave us in gloom while they live happily ever after. Sometimes they all gang up with excuses: this poet was gloomy (from a childhood spent running at things and chewing them) or that poet was myopic (then got glasses and saw the dog he'd joyously romped and wrestled with in youth was really a tattoo on his neighbor's butt). Admittedly, illusion and disillusion are rampant in the arts and puzzling to all concerned.
And, to be fair, the problem is sometimes ourselves. Could we be a little afraid of how scary and beautiful self-expression can be?
"Eh?" says my old bus, apart from its roar and mephitic fumes. It is metaphor; it becomes the poet who burns freely and smells like a heretic. It echoes the Biblical Logos, the Word of cosmic reason, which is also an interrogative. Poetry is the engine that contains explosions and propels us down the road.
Happily, last I checked under the bonnet, both Bus and Willie are in good shape. Poetry, however, seems to have hidden under rhythmic profanity between subwoofer blasts. Some of it is pretty frightening, but remember the Logos --the still, small voice that remains after the fury, eh?