14 Feb 2017

How much of the poet is the poem, Marcus? When a verse strums a chord deep inside you, the words become yours, as if the sun has painted a new shadow, a different shape that you always knew was within you, that has slipped out to straddle earth and sky, dragging your heart along with it. In that moment, you are poem, you are the light and the poet, no matter who really conceived those lines.

So it wouldn’t change your consideration, your response to the poem, if you knew of the poet’s situation, his struggle, his ecstasy, where his words lingered before they spilt out of his pen?

Does poetry need context? I think all a poem asks for is the reader’s uninhibited imagination, his ability to surrender thought, tiptoe through the spaces and reach for its core, beneath the veil of beauteous words.

And what if the reader wants to look in the poet’s eyes to see the poem unravel?

He could just look in the mirror. A poem can gently lift the corners of his life and shine a light into its unspoken secrets or stare back sullenly daring him to shrug and turn the page. He is the context.

so grey
this rain wrapped in sunshine
wrapped in rain

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36 thoughts on “14 Feb 2017

  1. I understand the ‘poet as context’ in terms of the ‘micro as macro’. It can either have insular leanings or collective. One slides into narcissism, the other, joy.

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    1. You mean for the poet? For the reader, if the poem cannot stand without the poet, then it either loses relevance or takes on an entirely different meaning than the poet intended. So perhaps the question is personal vs universal expression… does creativity and self expression matter exclusively, or is it important to reach readers.

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      1. Without the reader, the poet is like that tree that perhaps fell; pick your reader, that is the choice – the comparison with the sheikh choosing his disciple is apt here (we have to ignore its patriarchal and elitist underpinnings for the analogy to work though).

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  2. A most wonderfully deep and contemplative write, especially admire; “He could just look in the mirror. A poem can gently lift the corners of his life and shine a light into its unspoken secrets or stare back sullenly daring him to shrug and turn the page. He is the context.”

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  3. Ah, I am one who likes to know a bit of the poet’s situation when I read a poem. For me, it does change the way I look at a poem. I like it when over the years of following a poet I also learn something of their backstory. I do like the ‘context.’ I know we all have our differences, and that is ok! Smiles.

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    1. Yes indeed it is ok… I wonder always about the reach of poetry and how someome who knows nothing of the context will read my work.. so maybe the poem loses a little of the personal in its writing, but I hope always it will talk to someone with no context. It is a hard decision I think. Thanks so much Mary.

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  4. A poem needs itself in order to speak to the reader. If a poem needs the poem, then it is not complete… I would go as far as to say that a poem that needs its poet to be understood stops being poetry.

    Love the prose. And the haiku left full of good old envy. I wish it was mine.

    This is delicious poetry.

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    1. A poem that needs the poet is not poetry.. I completely second that….thanks a ton Magaly. The beauty of poetry is individual interpretation and resonance and I do think knowing all about the context makes it more rigid somehow.

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      1. It is not so easy to relate to a piece–to experience if as if we are in it–if the piece in question feels finished, and exclusive to a character. So, yes, I completely agree with your thoughts on rigidity.

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  5. Poem as their rain in our rain! Wrapped like a gift! Oh I hope so, though I rarely think that way as I write. And at times I want to unwrap poems I haven’t written to understand how they might relate to their time and place. I recognize that to be the academic history of ideas person that is still part of me (I once was a professor of theatre). I never regret that urge and actually needed it as a teacher. I unwrap yours a little to get to the inner richness a first reading might not reveal. But the first impulse is always my relationship with the event when reading. I often comment impulsively from that place. I love how this duo (trio with the haiku) bring the multiple voices inside a poet out into the open.

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    1. That’s wonderful Bjorn, glad this inspires the lovely old librarian! And I love that you say it is co-creation. That is the perfect word here I think. The words sit there, birthed by someone and the reader with his own experiences breathes new life into them!

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  6. I liked the question raised about poetry and context. Yes, a poem’s existence is the invitation for a reader to enter its world. It shouldn’t need context, though of course an unsteady poet may wish to provide it. All the context that is needed should come in the crafting of the piece.

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  7. So interesting–I tend to agree with your stance–I think the reader and the poem become one–and context in terms of the poet’s frame is meaningless to the reader–and sometimes, it is worse than that–it tells the reader what they should think and feel–

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  8. I think a poem must do both: invite one to enter, and dare her to do so.

    Sunshine wrapped in rain
    becomes shards of dancing lights
    Flicker of fireflies.

    Elizabeth

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