The Purpose of Poetry

I don’t really know what to write about tonight, so here’s a poem I wrote a couple of days ago:

I do not stand up on the stage

to scream primeval pain and rage

about how life is meaningless

and freedom’s just a bigger cage

It may be valid art, I guess

but I’d prefer you were impressed

with the actual words I choose

and the thoughts that they suggest

Perhaps intended to amuse

or maybe to express my views

but what the poem is all about

is in the words I choose to use

It’s not the voice, there is no doubt

that when the words are written out

a whisper can become a shout

a whisper can become a shout

I’m not sure I succeeded 100% witgh this one.  It sort of hearkens back to a conversation I had one night at The Tulip, which was our venue for poetry readings at the time, and we were standing on the stairs between the basement, where the readings were, and the bar upstairs, and Eric Cummings said to me “It’s not the stage, it’s the page” and that’s always stuck with me.

Also, though, it’s about the  difference between a poem as sound, and feeling, and one where the words are expressing a more concrete thought, which I, personally, like them to.

There’s more to it than that, too, but I find that as I try to explain it in non-rhyming terms, it comes across sounding even weaker and more banal than the poem itself.


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