Dirty Gerty's Hurdy Gurdy


Only the poem knows what's true

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Much has been said of nature, red in tooth and claw, and the ways in which it provides some sense of inspiration, if not revelation. I believe nature, if anything, provides one re-discovery. Via objectivity, poetic objectivity, mind you, where a person can attribute the wind with human qualities, make a zephyr cough, and actually become it, that such stuff. Or, just an impulse, hidden too long, that birds in the morning can elaborate, or the foam of a wave coming to and being receded from the shore, the way it controls our ebbs and flows, even if all is a function of human interpretation, guiding the thought that life imitates art.
In his defense on poetry, Shelley had a line memorable to every nascent artist, that is, poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. For some time, this mistook me. I didn't quite realize what he meant. But now, perhaps because my illness has made me closer to a "core," or because after my father's death this May, I've been in numerous existential battles, which, I've come to realize, are never won, perhaps because of this I know more about Shelley, and his inclinations via this phrase.
Poetry has the remarkable quality of revealing to us what we already know. It gives the reader an invented instinct. So, Dickinson, her certain slant of light on winter afternoons, oppresses like the weight of cathedral tunes, has the reader come to a rediscovery, about a moment or instinct this light reflects. Even more prominent is Keats' Nightingale. Its immortal song reminds anyone who reads that poem, of their own mortality, and even sets the reader into a frenzy whose climax is "do I wake or do I sleep?" And Baudelaire, describing the air at dawn as a face full of tears having them swiped away by the dawn's wind. Reading that, you're reminded not just how the dawn operates, but how things are so easily wiped away with every day, and that point in which they are destroyed, is the point in which death becomes beauty, baiting the depths of revelation.
I could go on endlessly. When Shelley set forth that phrase, I don't believe he was referring to matters of politics and whatnot. That's just the metaphor. Poets provide us something priceless, that is, setting us the rules and laws not under which we live, but under which we are re-discovered. And the poem does the same thing to a poet. When a poet finds an appropriate form, and the form the poem wants to take talks back, there is s symbiosis at stake. The poet somehow rediscovers an identity via this form; the form rediscovers an identity via the poet's inclinations. And all of this is recycled, re-created when art is given to the readers' eyes.
And, the realization is, this process goes unacknowledged. It isn't recognized by every reader. Is, in fact, assumed anonymously. But this unacknowledged state is what makes it so perfect, and profound. Because, really, the poem acts like nature. Certainly, our interpretations are at the core of its existence; but it's something there, like a zephyr's cough, to remind us how we're rediscovered. If not through the grace of space and time, at least through the grace of an unassuming line.

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