A Declaration of Poetry

Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

Writing is a heartbeat beating. All which live — the trees that give us breath, the plankton that illuminate the sea, I, you, we — vibrate to a single tune. Even the stars which live no more burn in the sky as smoldering flames, long after they’ve ceased.

We are one.

The living and the dead; the past and future; the now and then. Writing provides the single thread which weaves through the great quilt of meaning that wraps around our shoulders. Writing gives me purpose; it holds my life together.

There are countless writing styles, movements, do’s and don’ts that have come and gone throughout history. At its foundation writing is survival, a means to make sense of the age one lives in.

To not write, to not create, for those that have felt that touch of ecstasy which comes from tearing at their soul to produce — is to become burdened by the weight of life.

This world is more complex than we can possibly comprehend. What we see is seldom what we think it is. Yes, the world consists of material things, but just like you and me, these things are nothing but stories that have been spun.

Poetry unravels them.

Imagism

As the 20th-century Imagist poet Ezra Pound (1885–1972) writes in A Few Don’ts:

“An ‘Image’ is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time.” (Pound, 1918)¹

This is the beating heart of poetry: to view the image, objective reality, not as just what’s on the surface. Rather, as something pulsing and alive, a diamond to be scrutinized, glistening from afar, yet of a different sort when studied from within.

The object changes. We change. There’s a give and take of meaning. Every moment, each interaction, every day we’re on this earth is an image to explore.

We ostensibly live in an objective world — we feel our body shiver when swimming across a freezing lake; a friend enters the car when she’s picked up at three in the morning. There is silence — a smile, breaking out in laughter.

These are actions. Things we do. But what about the words you wish to tell her? What kind of life is blooming beneath your freezing limbs? Dancing in our DNA are words not fit for a cage, but vying for a chance to shine, hoping that their day will come.

Surrealism

This thing we call life is a blend of material reality and all that lives in our thoughts as dreams; awake as we’re asleep and asleep while we’re awake — we’ve been given imaginations, creativity, color. Who’s to say the color’s really there?

This questioning of a rational and ethical world makes up the essence of Surrealism, an artistic movement made famous by such artists as Salvador Dalí (1904–1989) and René Magritte (1898–1967).

What if, what if, we’re on this earth to see the smile in her eyes — to feel the silent warming of the world before the day begins. To feel his warmth beneath the blankets or the chill of a starry night, when nothing but the moon is shining, and that’s enough to see the path ahead.

That’s enough to step forth into the darkness.

Surrealism provides the freedom to explore beyond our comprehension. The 20th-century Surrealist poet Federico García Lorca (1898–1936) writes in Ballad of the Moon Moon: ²

“How the night heron sings
how it sings in the tree
Moon crosses the sky
with a boy by the hand.”
(Lorca, 1928)

The words we share expose the confines of the heart. Light, then, passes through, colors of incandescent shades — blue as the ocean and cool; red as fire, the desire to live; white, the purist of the light, and darkness too, floods through, to make the colors prominent.

Confessional Poetry

I believe this is constant in poetry, as writing poetry allows the writer to merge often challenging topics with beauty through metaphor, imagery and lyricism, just like music.

The Confessional Poets of the mid 20th-century were known for their “voice-driven” poetry, like grabbing the reader by the hand and walking them through the garden of their soul. The poet Sylvia Plath (1932–1963) writes in The Moon and the Yew Tree:³

“The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary.
Her blue garments unloose small bats and owls.
How I would like to believe in tenderness —
the face of the effigy, gentled by candles,
Bending, on me in particular, its mild eyes.”
(Plath, 1961)

Poetry leads us to the cave which we fear entering most — often the dark, cold, granite walls of our inner world. That’s all poetry has to be.

Not a sequence of words which adhere to a leading form of a certain age; not a lyrical masterpiece which rhymes and uses poetic devices. Poetry is a key to unlock ourselves, a means to explore what makes this life worth living.

Prose Poetry

The German writer, Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926) writes to an aspiring poet in his Letters to a Young Poet:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.” (Rilke, 1903)

Live the questions now.

That must be some of the best advice to anybody unsure of where their path will lead, confused by who they are, wondering how to find meaning in this world.

Someone like me.

Would we want to reach the finish line if given the choice? Would we want to have the answers as to what this life is supposed to mean, how we’re supposed to live, even, what might make us truly happy?

I don’t think so, for the search is the point.

The questioning, the seeking, the exploration — these things give our lives the experiences which connect us to one another, for we’re all just seekers, yet we search in different ways.

We communicate differently, think in myriad capacities, and connect the dots through treading different paths.

And then maybe we realize, I’m supposed to be over there! Or, this isn’t me at all. But if we’re willing to try, if we’re willing to fall, if we’re willing to learn, we will find our way.

I’ve found poetry, writing, and vulnerability to be a guiding light. No matter what path I embark on, I know at least the moon will guide me — for the moon is the mother, the teacher, the father of the poet — even through the darkest nights. We all have the poet in us.

Just look up.

FLARF

Life seldom makes sense. Sometimes all we can do is take a step in a new direction, one that is disparate from the path we walked before. The same goes for writing.

There are rooms within our inner being that have never been explored, and until we try something that might be uncomfortable, we’ll never know the treasure that’s been locked away. Look no further than FLARF if you’re keen on going there.

“Flarf, by not providing a motherfucking note to tell you what it’s supposed to be, activates thought,” writes contemporary poet Drew Gardner in WHY FLARF IS BETTER THAN CONCEPTUALISM.(Gardner, 2010)⁵

“Flarf wants you… It’s smurfs watching Point Break while reading Finnegans Wake. You can’t help but like it, can you? It wants to play even dirtier.”

This is FLARF, and I don’t know what to make of it, but I think I love it.

It can be intimidating to write poetry, with all the rules and devices and structure. FLARF does away with them and says let your heart spill on the page in the most audacious way you can imagine.

Better than less than more than — are our differences so important that they’re worth the fight? Or, is it enough to simply want to make some music; to want to sing, dance, to play or run or swipe at a blank canvas.

Is it enough, simply longing to create, to put the pen to page, thoughts that may change, dice and rearrange to show a mind that’s aged. How beautiful this world could be if we could stop to smell the roses; how magical, if we could collectively breathe the air and question why we’re here on earth.

The first drop of ink which smears across the page takes you to the cave you fear. To see the empty darkness and feel it crawl atop your shoulders. It grabs you by the waist and asks for a dance — tango with your shadow, flamenco with your demons, and see, just wait and see, what you can do.

What rises up from those dark depths — is poetry — for it’s everything and nothing.

Poetry’s your heartbeat beating.

Much love, fam.​ Join my Weekly Insights to take part in the journey! Ignite your inspiration with my debut book, Arrows of Youth ❤️‍🔥 my podcast, The Dare to Dream Podcast 🎙 or my favorite books list.​ 📚

References

¹ Pound, Ezra. “‘A Retrospect’ and ‘a Few Don’ts’ by Ezra Pound.” Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Accessed March 9, 2022. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/69409/a-retrospect-and-a-few-donts.

² Lorca, Federico García. “Ballad of the Moon Moon by Federico García Lorca.” Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Accessed March 9, 2022. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/89729/ballad-of-the-moon-moon.

³ “Sylvia Plath — the Moon and the Yew Tree.” Genius. Accessed March 9, 2022. https://genius.com/Sylvia-plath-the-moon-and-the-yew-tree-annotated.

⁴ Rilke, Rainer Maria. Letters to a Young Poet. Garden City, NY: Ixia Press, an imprint of Dover Publications, 2021.

⁵ Gardner, Drew. “WHY FLARF IS BETTER THAN CONCEPTUALISM.” Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Accessed March 9, 2022. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet-books/2010/04/ill-steal-your-poets-like-i-stole-your-bike.

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Vincent Van Patten

Vincent Van Patten

3.6K Followers

Exploring what lights my soul on fire ❤️‍🔥 Living in Osaka, Japan. vincentvanpatten.com