Saturday, October 28, 2006


I hear poets say things like this all the time: One might think, as poets, we would be far more comfortable with abstracts, anonymity, the process of thinking and describing.

I suppose that's true—if poetry were entirely a mental process: of the mind, not of the body, as though we had no embodiment below the neck, but were just naked brains floating in space. I've never understood this viewpoint, although I recognize it's existence.

You see, I think, as poets, we would be far more comfortable with the opposite. I think poetry is rooted not in abstracts but in lived experience, in living, in the body, in the breath. It is also rooted in the detailed awareness of the experience of daily life: like Zen, poetry is a process of paying close attention to whatever one is doing at the moment.

I think poetry can end up abstract, although I would question if that is necessary, inevitable or a good thing. I question why some poets think that is poetry's inevitable outcome. Poetry is as tangible as music, as visual art, as living—or it is not, itself, alive. If in reading a poem, I don't feel the experience of the poem from the inside, then the poem doesn't fully work for me. It might be an interesting intellectual exercise, but I want to experience it in my whole being, not only my head.

As for the terror of losing the self, well, that's also the purpose of art: going beyond the self. The part of the self that feels terror at the prospect of its own loss is the smallest, most fearful part of the self, anyway. And losing it is no loss.

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