Tuesday 21 May 2013

Poetry demystfied.

People have a way of backing off from poetry. Not for me, only for clever people, I hate poetry, can't make sense, haven't got time, why?, not cool, not hot, what's poetry?

Poetry involves two steps: making meaning, and making meaning with language.

The bad news is that there isn't any ready-made, given meaning, which is really very bad news for fundamentalists, and the good news is that we make it for better or worse all the time.

We make meaning with whatever creative means is immediately at hand, with purpose, within a context. I have come to realize that the astute and creative business person is as expressive and produces as much beauty as any artist, musician and poet.

Language is the plumbline of human meaning since it's the most immediately available means of expression. The subtlest thought, intention, idea and action are birthed in language, as intuitive consciousness strikes spontaneously.

The difference between deliberate and intuitive consciousness is language.

An important aspect of my education began in my first year as an undergraduate when I reached for pen and paper and began to write my spontaneous thoughts. In the very first sentence I learnt that my spontaneous thoughts were rubbish. In my second paragraph I asked for wisdom. That was good, but it was a mistake. I should have asked for wisdom in respect of what to ask for. That would have put me in line for a more efficient introduction to deliberate consciousness.

Of course you can pay deliberate attention to anything you want, When you pay deliberate attention to uttering truthfulness from your core, you're doing poetics, which may or may not result in good poetry. If you ask an academic what good poetry is, you won't get a clear answer. As professor of English I would have brought the house down if I had tried a definition of good poetry. That's not allowed. As a coach I can state with much confidence that good poetry is poetry that creates resonance.

Words uttered (spoken or written) from the core that find felt resonance with the cores of others are much like music, in an objective sense. A,B,C,D,E,F and G are not only letters of the alphabet, they're particular sounds, too. As well as all the sharps and flats. Unlike writing, music is not an invention but a discovery. As Andre Rieu says, if we all made more music together, there would be more peace in the world. If we uttered ourselves more skilfully in terms of speech and drama on the everyday stage of soliloquy, dialogue and chorus, and spiritual, social and individual identity blended perfectly into an undeniable presence of character and character of presence, communication would regain much of its art, and lose most of its pragmatic teeth.

If you cannot find your presence in the street, you will not see your character in the mirror.

Are we doing poetry yet?

When I was explaining this to one of my classes, I put it in a poem:


Many leaves, one tree;
many people, one poem.

So, in a nutshell, poetry is very much about presence. You recognize presence more than you see presence. You sense presence more than you perceive it.

The five senses are good for physical survival, the sixth sense puts it all together and gives humankind identity in the cosmic scheme of things.


He gently blows this smoke-ring
through the first.
I'm silent,
pretending to puff a pipe I don't have.

My colleague who teaches Afrikaans poetry has told me that the moment anyone opens their mouth to speak, he instantly knows everything about them. I think I'm going to test this today.

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