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Friday, July 9, 2021

Ars Poetica

Photo shows Noire (black cat by the mat) and me. She is about 1/71th my age, yet we peacefully  

share a yard. This of course brought to mind two literary works, "Ars Poetica" by Archibald Macleish (c.1900 AD) and "Ars Poetica" by Horace (c. 19 BC). Both works are --like Noire et moi-- in mint condition (or so), but there is some modern consideration called for.

I refer, of course, to Albert Camus's essay against flawed philosophy, inequity and cosmic absurdity, "The Myth of Sisyphus".  It is predicated on the futility of pushing a rock uphill only to have it roll down again and again.

It involves meaningful miscommunication.This is crystalized in the 1970s film, "The Jerk":

"Ma: I hope you find what you're looking for.
Nevin: I will, Ma. I know it's out there.
Tosh: It's out there alright, and if you catch it, see a doctor and get rid of it."

Sisyphus and a venereal disease share an unfortunate partial linguistic homonymy.  If you EVER run across this film, watch it. If it rings a bell, seek the  proper spelling. It may save you some miscommunications.

Tell listeners, friends, teachers, doctors exactly how you are. Macleish's (1926) poem ends with "a poem should not mean, but be." 

40 years later, Sinatra sang:"Things turned out so right for strangers in the night...Do Be Do Be Do Be...etc."
 
Point is, poetry is an activity that has undergone definition and redefinition for thousands of years and, if you want to know what it is, read it --certainly-- but also seek it in your memories, experiences. Don't just read it, write it! The entire art form needs your part and heart in its living influence. It Needs You.

14 comments:

  1. right now my gg's need me and that's a good thing..at almost 78 being needed and loved by great grandkids is a great thing.

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    1. Dear JACKIESUE, I don't have great grandkids yet, but the scad of grandkids I do have are undeniably great. Yes, they "need" you, of course. They need to know they are measurelessly valued, loved, by family --you, their parents, us.

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  2. I so agree that a poem should not mean, but be. I wish to simply enjoy, not search for the deeper meaning. I don't need to know for what something is a metaphor. I want to take pleasure in the picture painted by the words.

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    1. Dear Emma, appreciation of poetry can take many forms, many sequences of influence, of pleasure and understanding. I learn from essays, stories, histories and mysteries, but poems have a way of addressing all those genres from a focal point. The are little literary beings; they are alive, and reassert themselves after they are read --sometimes long after.

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  3. Thanks Geo for the nudge to explore again.
    On your inspiration I read again, Eliot's The Waste Land.
    Now I wonder why I don't spend more time in poetry and less time in paying attention to the world.
    "Do I contradict myself, very well then I contradict myself, I am large and I contain multitudes." Thank you Walt Whitman.

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    1. By golly, Tom, you've moved me to unshelve my 1962 Harcourt Brace paperback of TWL & Other TSE Poems. Bought it new 55 years ago. 1st page was Prufrock, prefaced by a bit of Dante's Inferno: "S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse a persona che tornasse al mondo...", which my limited Italian translates,"I believe my reply is a person returning to the world..." This answered questions Eliot came up with 600 years later.

      From Prufrock: "Let us go then, you and I,/When evening spreads...against the sky.../To lead you to an overwhelming question/...what is it?/ Let us go and make our visit."

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  4. You inspire me to keep pursuing poetry. Both the reading and feeble attempts to write poetry.

    PipeTobacco

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    1. Dear Prof., if we think of poems as notes in bottles, cast upon their ways --the waves-- they needn't follow any particular form or destination (both like and unlike Ms.Susan Cheever's profitable book by that name). Each contains hope, perhaps instructions. Length is limited to bottle size. Few bottles can contain a whole book, but most accommodate childhood elegies for departed pets, parents --or progress in joy, resolve, strength, solitude, loneliness --anything. A message in a bottle is a dormant thing, waiting to be found, to speak, to live.

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  5. I regret to say that I've almost always had a problem with poetry. One notable exception being the writings of Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I've always called my attempts in this genre to be doggerel.

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    1. Dear Bruce, the Ferlinghetti exception is informative. In 1968, I read my roommate's copy of "Coney Island Of The Mind". It was 10 years old then. I was 18. Go figure. "Christ climbed down from His bare Tree..." I had to go there. Especially had to go there 40 years later when they carried one of my son's books, but soon repaired to an uphill estaminet for chairs and refreshments. Point is, we must ask, as Ferlinghetti doubtless did; How much is that doggerel in the window, the one with the waggley tail? Did it help? Damn right, he lived to be 101. That's all I got.

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  6. Dr. C taught me that poetry does not make statements. Rather, it indicates. It suggests.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Dear Janie, Interesting idea. However, simile and metaphor can get real close to statement. I'm trying to think of the word, Quiddity? Maybe. Like Hamlet's to be or not soliloquy:"How weary flat, stale and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world." --would equate to feeling just awful, a statement.

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  7. I'm not sure poetry needs me, Geo! My attempts have been pitiful, and I find it intimidating. I can read it though, and you are encouraging me to get back to doing so.

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    1. Dear Louise, Poetry needs and offers. When I can't provide an idea in verse, free or metered, I go read old Japanese ones --like Masaoka Shiki:
      "Shitting in the
      Turnip field.
      The distant lights of the city." --one of my favorites, and Marichiko:
      "Who is there? Me.
      Me who? I am me, you are you.
      But you take my pronoun,
      And we are us."

      These 2 poems are from memory, read long ago from 2 collections of translated Japanese poetry edited by Kenneth Rexroth. Because his research yielded outstanding contributions by both men (Masaoka Shiki) and women (Marichiko}, I include both as examples of simplicity and clarity. They live in their own moments.

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