Saturday, December 13, 2008

The future of poetry

Finding a Bible in an Abandoned Cabin
by Robert Wrigley

Under dust plush as a moth’s wing,
the book’s leather cover still darkly shown,
and everywhere else but this spot was sodden
beneath the roof’s unraveling shingles.
There was that back-of-the-neck lick of chill
and then, from my index finger, the book
opened like a blasted bird. In its box
of familiar and miraculous inks,
a construction of filaments and dust,
thoroughfares of worms, and a silage
of silverfish husks: in the autumn light,
eight hundred pages of perfect wordless lace.

(from the American Life in Poetry website)

Before copying this poem, I read over the website's permissions for use, which are much longer than any of the poems, and thought, There will always be work for lawyers. There will, as long as humans gather in groups and as long as there is a rule of law. (I hope never to live in a time and place where there is not.)

Will there be work for Poets? for those who think of writing poetry as their vocation, who cultivate an artist's sensibility, and study and practice the craft. I think that the technologies which incorporate visuals and sound, and the abundance of entertainments, have made poetry an ancient art, as the printed book is becoming an outmoded, inefficient technology. The new depression is going to sweep away academic careerists, and seriously writing poetry will once again become the practice of a very few people who can't help themselves.

Poetry demands so much more of us than a movie. In common with spiritual practice, it demands that we slow down and lose our ambition. Reading a poem, we are listening to another person, entering their experience, taking a brief moment seriously.

So there will always be a profound need for real poetry, the kind not influenced by fads, not easy, impractical as quilting by hand, which is very different than quilting with a machine. Poetry helps us contact our humaness and the truth of our experience. It is not as practical as apples and lawyers, not a survival need or part of the infrastructure that is civilization. But insofar as we want to rise above our animal selves and cultivate humanness, it is equally necessary.

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