Today, July 29, 2013, marks the advent of a new Poetry University, which I am founding this morning, and which is established on the following simple principle :
The "poetry of life" is the origin of poetry. Poetry is innate, pre-existent, both in reality and imagination. Fossil poetry, mute poetry, visual poetry, sound poetry, verbal poetry... the poetry of experience, of history, of tragedy, comedy, of shame, glory, of sin, redemption... the poetry of fantasy and invention, of newness, oldness...
- it's all there. You won't "learn how to write" by appropriating certain academic or anti-academic techniques. Poetry pre-exists : it hovers in the shapes of all things & events. La vida es sueño. The poet taps into it. As Edwin Honig phrased it, in a brochure for the national Poets-in-the-Schools program, back in the 1970s : "Poetry is a buzzing in the air. It's everywhere. Poets listen to that sound, and write it down." (rough quotation from memory)
The Old Masters understood this. The old Hebrew & Chinese poets & prophets understood. One does not "learn" poetry as a set of techniques. Instead, one becomes attuned to it : one must be found worthy to express it. "Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips!" cried the prophet. This is the ethos of the poet in a nutshell. In fact every sort of education is ultimately rooted in this moral-spiritual sense. The learning is not an acquisition : it is a benevolence, a mystery. & this is also the ethos, the groundwork of humane civilization as a whole. Poetry inheres in actuality : so prepare yourself, poet, to be worthy to express
Some lineament or character,
Some affluence, if only half-perceived,
In the poverty of their words,
Of the planet of which they were part.
- Wallace Stevens, "The Planet on the Table"