{Wed 28 February 2007}   Leadership

Last night I was browsing through some of my thought-blurts and almost-poems and found this picture-poem combination. I recalled that I had been in a workshop where I made the picture first in response to some classical music (unfortunately, I forget which now) and then the poem in response to the picture. One of the things I couldn’t decide was which way up I preferred the picture, so that’s part of the theme!

One day this may become a standalone poem, but it needs further development. There’s just something about it that I like… I hope there’s enough here to catch your imagination too.

Sword of Damocles AboveSword of Damocles


Am I emergent or exhumed,
Birthed or rebirthed,
Now dangling below,
Now arched above
Damocles’ sword?

With hair root-startled
And sucked-in stomach,
Breath whisked away
By words yet unformed,
Briefly balanced,
But naked,
In thought’s blue waters,

Is it with rhythm and poise
Or by sweet accident
That I somersault
(am catapulted)
over today’s death?

Do I swim under that sword,
Or is it beneath me?
Is this my dagger that I see before me?
No matter.
Tomorrow, a thousand deaths await me.

{Tue 27 February 2007}   Song and Dance
Song and Dance

Oh, grey stone steps! My steps are grey;
They heave like schoolboys from their play
When duty, duty, duty, calls
To “brighten lives” in Hades’ halls.

Their lino path invades my shoes;
Its disinfectants now suffuse
My squeamish toes, but measured pace
Seeks out the chair. The audience waits.

A faded circle: knitting, shawls
And blankets shuffle—time now crawls
And settles into atrophy
As, shallow-breathed, I sound a key.

This note-struck hour now adds itself
To sighing streams of time which swell
Past bleary eyes that bloat with tears
And shout at slowly shutting ears.

Stripped to the lip-read sound of noise,
This young and strong and destined voice
Must gentle now to songs of yore
That echo down love’s corridor.

Must stroke and soothe and smile—but, Stop!
What floating muse impels her up?
Urgent, she battles Wheelchair’s clutch:
Rises, surprises me with touch!

Recalling love, her arms wrap round
This startled beau. Thumbs tap: she sounds
The years on me, lifts chin and heart
And cocks her arms for Charleston start!

{Sat 24 February 2007}   Thanks for the lesson

And some days, one feels like this… as is the case with most of the poems on this site so far, I wrote this a long time ago, but it’s probably one to which many people can relate:

Thanks for the lesson

So you’re a lover, are you?
I can do that too:
I can lurve and leave you;
even I can screw
my head down tight and nasty,
move like a machine,
drive a forklift through the party,
decimate the dream
come true;
come, I can,
come through,
come, come,
can you?

{Fri 23 February 2007}   Seeking the Muse: Beautiful Melancholy
This poem by John Keats is one of my favourites. I return to its themes again and again as I try to understand that the capacity to enter fully into joy is the same one that enables me to grieve to the end of grief. Conversely, while my grieving is blocked, my bliss cannot flow.

The Ode on Melancholy urges me not to stop on the “obvious” expressions of Melancholy in my search for poetic feeling as this leads to a static non-productive depression, like artificially-induced altered states that purport to intensify experience but in fact deaden it. It urges me to yield to the exquisite apperception of true emotion that occurs when I am truly present to life and enter fully into its pleasures. A wholehearted contemplation of beauty must bring awareness of its transience. Ultimately, my pleasure in it is heightened precisely because of its transience. Human life is a bittersweet paradox of continual reaching for beauties which begin to dissipate almost in the moment of their flowering. The soul alert to this can truly feel.

Today, while researching it on the web, I was surprised to discover a discussion I hadn’t come across before (by marilee at englishhistory.net) of a preceding stanza that was removed before the Ode was published. It seemed at first a little impenetrable, but I realised that this was partly because I am so familiar with the other three stanzas. On rereading it, I was drawn in, especially by the idea that a poet might try to “stitch creeds together for a sail” — see my two previous posts!

Although I do think (as Keats and his publishers evidently did) that the poem as it is widely known can stand on its own, the possible prior stanza does convey the urgency that might drive the seeker to contemplate the extreme (suicidal) options covered in the stanza beginning “No, no…”. He really, really wants “To find the Melancholy”!

So… here it is, with four stanzas instead of the usual three.

Reading this poem slowly, aloud, is an incredibly rewarding experience. Enjoy!

Ode on Melancholy
by John Keats

Though you should build a bark of dead men’s bones,
And rear a phantom gibbet for a mast,
Stitch creeds together for a sail, with groans
To fill it out, bloodstained and aghast;
Although your rudder be a Dragon’s tail,
Long sever’d, yet still hard with agony,
Your cordage large uprootings from the skull
Of bald Medusa; certes you would fail
To find the Melancholy, whether she
Dreameth in any isle of Lethe dull.

No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolf’s-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss’d
By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow’s mysteries;
For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.

But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

She dwells with Beauty – Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;
His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.

{Thu 22 February 2007}   What do I believe?
Well, I was going to post another poem today, but I’m having trouble with the scansion so it’s not ready yet. In the mean time, I went to visit the blog of a very dear friend of mine, started to write a brief comment and looked up from a steaming keyboard several paragraphs later, realising that I’d begun for the first time to make a coherent statement of my (current) creed.

The post I responded to is on the subject of Universal Restoration (my friend gives a pretty good overview of this if you want to check it out at soundandsilence.wordpress.com), but that’s not strictly necessary in order to understand what follows. Our conversation there is a part of the much larger 25 years or so of shared and disparate experiences that have created our relationship, which is very precious to me. However, I realised that my response can largely stand on its own as a statement of my belief, given a couple of contextual nudges.

First, I responded to the suggestion that I am a “closet believer”.

“… re the closet – I have no reason to be in one. I’m not hiding anything (other than those things that are hidden from myself, in which case you can hardly expect me to admit to them!) As to a believer, well that depends on the supposed object of belief. I am not a believer in a masculine or a feminine God. I am not a believer in the doctrine of original sin. I am not a believer in a concept of The Elect. I am not a believer in any of the heavens or hells that were described to me during my time in the church. I am not a believer in the infallible authority of any (including Christian) scripture. I am not a believer in salvation through Jesus Christ, unless “salvation” is highly qualified (what exactly are we saved from?, what does the salvation consist of?) and “Jesus Christ” is used metaphorically to designate a general principle of being-action that we can seek to incarnate ourselves and that people may incarnate without knowing the name (ask me about that one another time!).

I am a believer in a universe in which the whole is usually greater than the sum of its parts, in which the beauty of the rose and the spirt of a person remain mysterious beyond any analysing of them, and in which any human statements only approach truth by degrees of approximation. I believe in the power of love and in the necessity of our taking responsibility to make meaning in our lives by loving and creating (which is an outflow of love). I also believe that any tiny expression of heaven-on-earth that we can make happen now is more important than any hope of restoration in the eschatological future.”

Secondly, I responded to this statement by another Commenter: ”…surely there can be no doubt of the psychological, spiritual and/or material “reality” that millions of people sense, of some kind of fall from perfection”.

“There may be no doubt that millions of people sense it, but millions of people also believe that HIV is a white man’s disease and that female genital mutilation is a good thing. Billions of people believe that women are inferior to men and many of them base this on scripture.

The number of adherents of a belief has never been an indicator of its truth. That it might be has been proven repeatedly to be in itself an erroneous belief. People are able to hold to not just iffy but demonstrably incorrect beliefs despite actual evidence to the contrary, when the implications of changing their minds are too much to cope with and particularly when the religious authorities in their lives oppose the change (witness how long it took for Copernicus’ ideas to gain acceptance).

It is hardly surprising that people can continue to hold to a metaphysical belief that lies beyond the realm of proof and is a determinant of the consequent logic of their entire faith and culture. The “fall from” really depends on one’s definition of perfection. If it is wholeness (a very possible option, scripturally), then this could just as well reflect a dialectical universe in which a deliverance from all evil would be a reduction to less than perfection. It also depends on one’s definition of evil. We normally define evil from an autocentric human perspective which proceeds from an extremely arrogant pre-Copernican view of the universe. Are earthquakes evil? That depends on one’s perspective as to what should and shouldn’t (be allowed to) happen in the universe graced with one’s presence.”

I realise that a lot of the above is about what I don’t believe, along with some critique of other beliefs. My questions and posits re definitions of evil and the value of a dialectical model of the universe are open-ended. I’m not sure about these and many other things, but to the extent that I can voice, and in this small way be congruent with, my own beliefs at this current point of understanding, I feel exhilarated. I wonder whether my poetry may begin to reflect some of this now?

{Wed 21 February 2007}   Affirmation: My Best Self
Last night, while reflecting on the creative surge and emergent sense of purpose that I’ve been experiencing recently, I recalled an affirmation that I wrote about twelve years ago. It was during an explosive period of personal growth, when the experience of inner healing through the creative arts was newly exciting to me. My home was filled with my colourful paintings and poems and other objects that were beautiful to me. I was riding a surge of hope that gave me the power to make dramatic changes in my life and risk everything to follow my own passion and choose a life path that no one around me could understand.

That path has since taken me through several homes and jobs in four different countries and turned out to be rockier and more lonely than I could ever have imagined. I have many times berated myself for spending months on end in a state of seeming stasis, despite the continual changes that external realities (which I have chosen) have thrust upon me. For some years, I forgot all about this affirmation, but as I read it last night I realised that it has had a shape in my soul all this time, and has fuelled my continuing conviction through the greyest days that I am in fact journeying toward wholeness.

In preparing the affirmation for this post today, I realised that I no longer agreed with some aspects of what I had written. I smiled to myself as I edited it, realising that in so doing I was expressing one of my convictions about humans’ capacity to know anything—that our grasp of reality is limited, and whatever absolute truth may be, it is not in our power to define it absolutely. The wisest course is a blend of humility and hope. In this spirit, then, I’m sharing with you not an accurate description of the person you might encounter if you met me, but an image of the one I am aiming to become.

Feel free to use any parts of it to create an affirmation for yourself if something resonates with you, but seek to respect and live consistently with your own truth above all.

Affirmation: My Best Self

I love myself. I will not abandon myself. I celebrate my individuality. I appreciate my inner and external beauty. I delight in and am energised by natural and artificial beauty. My creativity makes a real, objective contribution to the world. I contemplate my creations with pleasure. What I do is good. I am patient with myself as I discover the best media to express my gifts. I seek and receive feedback from others and from my universe to help me on my journey.

I respect the otherness of everything and everyone. At the same time, I celebrate the connectedness of all. I am part of a larger whole. I reflect something true about everyone. I acknowledge all of life, the totality of existence. I allow the spiritual to be as real to me as the physical. I value my intuition. I take time to listen to my inner voices. I exercise reason and judgement along with intuitive discernment.

I accept social responsibility as part of the whole. I develop my skills and train my talents in order to keep my promises. I focus seriously, consistently and joyfully on my work in order to add to the world. I look for opportunities to seed or build or contribute to vibrant, nurturing communities.

I listen to others. I affirm their emotional honesty by being there with them. I identify with their struggles even as I celebrate each person’s uniqueness. I express my own feelings to invite connection. I differentiate between my self and my feelings, and between my feelings and those of others. I wait patiently for the resolution of feelings. I act positively toward others. I take responsibility for my actions and responses. I recognise and rejoice in reciprocity.

I understand that the discipline of self is part of my contribution to the whole, because I can only care for others as I care for myself. I evaluate my values in terms of my growing understanding of universal laws. I submit to my evolving conscience in matters of morality and ethics. I incarnate my principles and convictions by acting on them.

At the same time, I am gentle with myself. I laugh at the incongruities in my thoughts and actions, and the paradoxes of my animal-spiritual nature, because I understand that I am always learning. When I teach what I am in the process of learning, I am aware that my truth is only an approximation of reality. With this awareness, I dive wholeheartedly into the mystery of life.

{Tue 20 February 2007}   Being in the Budding Field
Being in the Budding Field*

Our days flow dateless into nights
whose balm of cool and distant lights
soon melts beneath the searing dawns
of endless thirsty Negev morns.

Our heat-drugged forms ghost languid ways
through hanging dust that overlays
all muscle, feeling, thought and sense
with plodding, peaceful somnolence.

A-dream we walk, our veins shot full
of sun; our brains detach, annul
the links that joined us to the fates
of urgent lives beyond these gates.

{Mon 19 February 2007}   What is Poetry? 50 definitions
Why is it that everyone can identify poetry, but no one can define it? No matter how comprehensive the description, there is always a poem that doesn’t quite fit the given parameters. And yet, despite its many forms and styles, many people have a firm idea that they do or don’t like poetry. This is often based on exposure to a very few examples, and often in a coercive setting (i.e. school!). What kind of poetic expression speaks to you? Is it possible that one you haven’t met yet will do the trick?

I’ll start the list with a definition of my own and add several more that I’ve come across, in no particular order (yet). Please feel free to use Comments to suggest others—your own or anyone else’s (please only give definitions of “poetry”—we’ll do “poet” and other related items later!). Ultimately, I’ll compile a categorised resource page with the final results and acknowledge any contributions that usefully expand this list.

  1. Poetry is an attempt to capture the essence of the chord struck in the poet by an instant of insight, in such a way that the same music will sound in the soul of the reader. Tia Azulay
  2. poem n. a composition in metre : a composition of high beauty of thought or language and artistic form, in verse or prose : a creation, achievement, etc, marked by beauty or artistry. Chambers Student Dictionary
  3. Poetry is emotion put into measure. Thomas Hardy
  4. Poetry is the language of the imagination and the passions. William Hazlitt
  5. … not to transmit thought but to set up in the reader’s sense a vibration corresponding to what was felt by the writer—is the peculiar function of poetry. A.E. Housman
  6. Poetry is the language in which man explores his own amazement. Christopher Fry
  7. Poetry is a rhythmical form of words which express an imaginative-emotional-intellectual experience of the writer’s…in such a way that it creates a similar experience in the mind of his reader or listener. Clive Sansom
  8. Poetry is the spontaneous outflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origins from emotion recollected in tranquillity. William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads, 1802
  9. (Poetry is) literature in metrical form : any communication resembling poetry in beauty or the evocation of feeling
  10. Poetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal which the reader recognizes as his own. Salvatore Quasimodo
  11. Poetry (ancient Greek: ποιεω (poieo) = I create) is an art form in which human language is used for its aesthetic qualities in addition to, or instead of, its notional and semantic content. It consists largely of oral or literary works in which language is used in a manner that is felt by its user and audience to differ from ordinary prose. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poetry
  12. Poetry is man’s rebellion against being what he is. James Branch Cabell
  13. (Poetry is) a kind of ingenious nonsense. Isaac Newton
  14. (Poetry is) a literary expression in which words are used in a concentrated blend of sound and imagery to create an emotional response www.iclasses.org/assets/literature/literary_glossary.cfm
  15. Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance. Carl Sandburg
  16. A poem begins with a lump in the throat, a home-sickness or a love-sickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where the emotion has found its thought and the thought has found the words. Robert Frost
  17. Poetry is what gets lost in translation. Robert Frost
  18. A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him.
    Dylan Thomas
  19. Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds. Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822)
  20. Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things. T. S. Eliot (1888 – 1965), “Tradition and the Individual Talent”, II (The Sacred Wood, 1922)
  21. Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting with the gift of speech. Simonides (556 BC – 468 BC)
  22. (Poetry) is the lava of the imagination whose eruption prevents an earthquake. Lord Byron (1788 – 1824)
  23. Poetry is the deification of reality. Edith Sitwell (1887 – 1964), Life magazine, 01-04-63
  24. Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is go where they can find you. Winnie-the-Pooh, Pooh’s Little Instruction Book, inspired by A. A. Milne
  25. Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away. Carl Sandburg, Poetry Considered
  26. Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted. Percy Shelley, A Defence of Poetry, 1821
  27. Good poetry seems too simple and natural a thing that when we meet it we wonder that all men are not always poets. Poetry is nothing but healthy speech. Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862)
  28. Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood. T. S. Eliot (1888 – 1965)
  29. (Poetry is) texts in rhythmic form, often employing rhyme and usually shorter and more concentrated in language and ideas than either prose or drama www.longman.co.uk/tt_seceng/resources/glosauth.htm
  30. Poetry comes nearer to vital truth than history. Plato (427 BC – 347 BC)
  31. Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. Leonard Cohen
  32. Poetry is the art of substantiating shadows, and of lending existence to nothing. Edmund Burke
  33. Poetry is basically anything that calls itself a poem. www.trinityhigh.com/curric/english/literat/glossary.htm
  34. Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful. Rita Dove
  35. Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary. Kahlil Gibran
  36. Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn. Thomas Gray
  37. Poetry is all that is worth remembering in life. William Hazlitt
  38. (Poetry is) an imaginative response to experience reflecting a keen awareness of language. Its first characteristic is rhythm, marked by regularity far surpassing that of prose. Poetry’s rhyme affords an obvious difference from prose. Because poetry is relatively short, it is likely to be characterized by compactness and intense unity. Poetry insists on the specific and the concrete.
  39. Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth. Samuel Johnson
  40. Poetry should… strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance. John Keats
  41. Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words. Edgar Allan Poe
  42. Poetry: the best words in the best order. Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  43. The distinction between historian and poet is not in the one writing prose and the other verse… the one describes the thing that has been, and the other a kind of thing that might be. Hence poetry is something more philosophic and of graver import than history, since its statements are of the nature rather of universals, whereas those of history are singulars. Aristotle, On Poetics
  44. Poetry is the art of creating imaginary gardens with real toads. Marianne Moore
  45. Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits. Carl Sandburg
  46. Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason. Novalis
  47. There is poetry as soon as we realize that we possess nothing. John Cage
  48. Poetry is an orphan of silence. The words never quite equal the experience behind them. Charles Simic
  49. Poetry is certainly something more than good sense, but it must be good sense at all events; just as a palace is more than a house, but it must be a house, at least. Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  50. The poem is a little myth of man’s capacity of making life meaningful. And in the end, the poem is not a thing we see—it is, rather, a light by which we may see—and what we see is life. Robert Penn Warren

Acknowledgements: Although most of the above quotes are available from many sources, and I’ve encountered many of them before, I am grateful to Brainy Quote, Quotations Page, Quoteland, Quote World and The Quote Garden for either reminding me or making my search easier.

For those who asked… and some who might’ve been curious but didn’t ask… here’s a translation of the Afrikaans poem Die Skoene Jag which I posted on November 16th (I’ve noticed that this particular poem keeps registering hits, presumably because it’s a bit of a curiosity as an Afrikaans poem on an English website. On the other hand, some searchers are simply looking for shoes!)

This poem is also odd because it’s the only one of my childhood poems that currently appears on the site. I wrote it when I was thirteen, for a school exercise. Like all my peers in South Africa at the time, I was forced to study Afrikaans for the entire twelve years of my schooling. My own private rebellion against the Nationalist government consisted in refusing to speak Afrikaans, even though I wrote it well. I eventually managed to matriculate with an “A” for the subject overall, but something close to zero for the final oral exam, as I had not articulated a single sentence. It was a classic case of shooting oneself in the foot, of course, because in a later writers’ group where a few of the members had Afrikaans as a first language, I discovered that it is in fact an earthy tongue that richly and directly evokes emotion and conviction. As with all languages, there are some things that can only be said in that language and translation is inevitably “lossy”.

This translation is not a work of art (not that the original could really make a greater claim!) To convey it relatively accurately I’ve made a stab at using similar rhythms and rhyme-types as those in the original, but I did resort to some half-rhyme cheating, I confess. Most of the words are literally translated, although there are some word order inversions. The final line of the first stanza should really read something like “completed his appearance nicely”. The changes in tense are in the original, and were fairly typical in the telling of this kind of joke, as I remember.

The Shoe Hunt

Van der Merwe sees old Doep
Strolling out next to his stoep.
Old Doep wears a nice new suit
Like an ostrich with his plume.
A pretty shoe upon his foot
Finishes his fine costume.

“Hi, old pal! There on your foot
“Never a nicer shoe I’ve met!
“Tell me true, where did you
“Obtain such a lovely shoe?”
“You can’t buy it in a shop,”
Is the answer of old Doep.
“You must hunt it, if you will,
Simply shoot a crocodile.”

So every night, Van went down
To the river at full moon.
Every morning, back at the house
“Saw nothing, not even a mouse!”
Then he decided one last time
To search the stream for crocodile.

And this time, to his great luck,
Crocodile on the bank turned up.
Van der Merwe shoots the creature,
Goes into the water, pulls him over.
But now Van’s luck is really out:
“The stupid crocodile is barefoot!”

{Fri 16 February 2007}   Poetry’s Potential
I am so excited to have found, via Very Like a Whale, this exquisitely expressed post called “Defining Difficulty in Poetry” by Reginald Shepherd.

I highly recommend this post, but I do wonder about the impact of declaring that “poetry is difficult”! That is what so many of its potential readers fear. Of course, this is due to a basic assumption that it ought not to be; that somehow poetry, uniquely among the art forms, should not use techniques, devices, materials and skills that require knowledge and mastery to achieve or comprehend its effects. Stephen Fry suggests in The Ode Less Travelled that most people believe that because words are a universal currency, art made from them should be instantly, universally accessible:

“Unlike musical notation, paint or clay, language is inside every one of us. For free. We are all proficient at it. We already have the palette, the paints and the instruments. We don’t have to go and buy any reserved materials. Poetry is made of the same stuff you are reading now, the same stuff you use to order pizza over the phone, the same stuff you yell at your parents and children, whisper in your lover’s ear and shove into an e-mail, text or birthday card. It is common to us all. Is that why we resent being told that there is a technique to its highest expression, poetry? I cannot ski, so I would like to be shown how to. I cannot paint, so I would value some lessons. But I can speak and write, so do not waste my time telling me that I need lessons in poetry, which is, after all, no more than emotional writing, with or without the odd rhyme. Isn’t it?”

Like Mr Fry, I say No! Poetry is so much more than that. Poetry can be narrative and is usually (but not exclusively) emotional, yes, but it also uses visual and musical forms, as well as semantic suggestions which, in the best poems, enhance their meaning. It paints pictures and caresses or startles the ear. It engages the intellect and the imagination as well as the emotions.

Besides language, the poet must have something of the visual artist, the musician and the philosopher in her. The poet-artist appreciates the form of words, sentences and lines, and the value of negative space, for shaping a thought. The poet-musician revels in the sounds of words and letters, composing melodies from them, and feels the pulse of speech, drawing it out to make its many possible rhythms audible and compelling. The poet-philosopher understands the force of rational argument and the epistemological limbo in which truth eternally seeks a home, the subjective impulse toward individuation and the objective need for civil cooperation, the power of verbal accuracy and the pleasurable mysteries of contextual ambiguity—the thought-tangents that may open whole new worlds or parallel universes.

Poems written by such poets are worthy of “payment” for one’s enjoyment of them. People quite readily pay hard-earned cash for art gallery entrance fees or concert tickets when artists they value are showing their work. Could they not be encouraged to spend a little time learning the tools of poetry appreciation, which costs very little financially for something very rewarding?

Perhaps, to invite such readers to engage with all of poetry’s potential, rather than fearing it, some alternative semantics might be in order. Rather than referring to it as “difficult”, could we choose words like “challenging, intricate, profound, complex, sophisticated, rich, essential (of or relating to essence), multi-layered, nourishing, fertile, verdant, intriguing, fascinating, mysterious, stimulating…”?

et cetera