28 May 2014

Poetry Talk

Everything is at once simpler and more complicated, more solemn and yet less serious.
- C. Day Lewis

I am browsing in a field of contradictions. Where am I to go next?

In poetry there are no contradictions because according to the poet, for everything that is true the converse is also true, writes Cecil Day Lewis in The Poetic Image. I picked up this used book in Blackwell's Bookshop in Oxford. This kind of word-talk travels right along my street and it is producing some interesting waves of insight into poetry.

The poet can contradict something written a few lines before and cause no damage to the consistency of the poem. How is that for a paradox? The sky may be described in one line as a covering of clouds, blanketing the earth, but in a subsequent line referred to as limitless. That's a very pragmatic example, just to give an idea.

A poem. It's a place where words dabble in images that can be contradicted twice within its lines and still come out with part of a truth foretold, with the point of the poem looking toward the pattern in the world. The pattern that looks directly to the infinite. The unknowable. An incredulous poet can therefore choose words with confidence about that which is mysterious.

It is the beauty of poetry. (Or is it the confusion of poetry?)

Words chosen are used to evoke images that make the point easier to grasp. It might be simpler to state the scientifics of a thing, but that doesn't make it as easily understood. You probably understand the concept your Pastor is diving into when he stops and tells a story to illustrate it. This is a similar idea except it is choosing words within a densely packed poem. One could understand the emotion of an image being used to by-pass the scientific jargon that may clog a poem.

That is why poems tend to make something simple more complicated and something solemn less serious. A paradox woven within. Sometimes confusing poems clarify something not yet grasped. And most of the time it's worth hanging on to learn the truth.

No comments:

Post a Comment