Notes on Poetry #1

It may be that every single assertion about poetry in general, poetry in the abstract, can be contradicted by another assertion. Poetry is as multifaceted as the language and speech from which it grows. Moreover, the word "poetry" itself suffers from many types of overuse (my own type very much included).

With these caveats... here goes, anyway.

Poetry is the blossom, the fruit, the harvest of the ear. Much has been made of its roots in imagery, dreams, the visual imagination. But every landscape "seen" in poetry is a vision interpreted by the ear. My first thought is of the immense quiet of the forest. The delicacy of muted signals and rustlings of small birds and animals, within that enveloping near-silence. The title of Eliot's book of essays, The Sacred Wood, comes to mind. Poetry sets itself apart, distinguishes itself, by means of protective rings (like a bird's nest) of quietness, hiddenness, remoteness.

I don't mean to suggest any kind of hermeticism or passive withdrawal from the brash, noisy parade – the tense moral battles – of time, history and humanity. No : rather poetry absorbs, reflects and transfigures all that loud aggressive vitality – by means of its superior powers of the ear. And these powers are rooted and refined in the vast, remote, "woodland" habitat – the quietness of the word.

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