Cool Calm Collected

5 03 2010


What is the purpose of poetry? Anyone who attempts to read or write a poem has to ask this old question.

Since there has been language there has been poetry. Even sign language finds a rhythm and a meter. The most basic guttural grunt can indicate music and meaning. In fact poetry has developed hand-in-hand with our languages. Shakespeare practically invented modern English in his verse. Ancient histories were recorded in poetry. We know of Troy only because of Homer and surely countless attempts at civilization are forgotten for lack of poems. The troubadour news was spread during the Dark Ages in the poetry of songs. Every major religion is revealed and expressed in psalms and sutras and chants. Our cultural ways, our laws and values and traditions are codified and remembered in nursery rhymes and repeated poetic aphorisms. With modern advertising poetry has become rocket science. Jingles and marketing slogans and brand names are all poems.

The word poem comes from the Greek poiein–to make. Literally a poiema is anything made, anything put together or piled up. This is honest etymology. Most art is a pile of something. We pile up the evidence of our lives in landfills and poems to later be mined by archeologists and scholars and contemplators of tufts.

As you may surmise by the title of this book, it is a collection of poems. At least they are what I call poems. Many people have offered their definitions of poetry. The dictionary states it in concise if prosaic terms as:

an arrangement of words written or spoken: traditionally a rhythmical composition, sometimes rhymed, expressing experiences, ideas, or emotions in a style more concentrated, imaginative, and powerful than that of ordinary speech or prose: some poems are in meter, some in free verse.

This is a good definition, I suppose. The definitions of poetry are as numerous as the people who are asked to define it. When we refine the question to ‘what is GOOD poetry?’, the fun really starts. Defining a horse as a quadrupedal mammalian doesn’t help you understand the nature or essence of horse as well as riding a horse or even seeing one run.

If we ask poets to say what poetry is, we get a more intimate and stylized definition. Coleridge maintains that, “Poetry is the best words in their best order.” Frost says, “The figure a poem makes. It begins in delight and ends in wisdom… in a clarification of life – not necessarily a great clarification, such as sects and cults are founded on, but in a momentary stay against confusion.” And Emerson commenting on Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, calling it, “Incomparable things said incomparably well.” These tell us more about the essence of poetry, I think.

If you ask me, good poetry is an assortment of words that when read or heard cause something to happen in your mind, something noteworthy but unexplainable. Good poetry causes you to know things in a more mysterious way than by simple explanation. By means of such devices as rhythm and rhyme, meter and metaphor and by symbols used like colors or chords, a good poem is able to evoke emotion and realization. At the very least it takes you from wherever you happen to be to another place. It represents a journey of some kind, even a very short one. But in the final analysis, no matter how you try to define or intellectualize about poetry or discuss its qualities in an academic sense, good poetry is good poetry for the same reason that anything is good, because it works. And poetry works best when it is entertaining.

With this volume, my most ardent hope is to entertain. Such cerebral entertainment as poetry is lost on the majority of people. I have resigned myself to this fact. If I was after pure box-office I would try to sell more pedestrian products like Self Help books or Romance novels or some other pornography or literary confection. But I am a poet so I can only give you poetry and hope that some of it will resonate.

You will find poems in this book written in numerous styles and moods and voices ranging from the silly to the surreal. Some are epics and some are merely moments. Some are designed to be heard and some are made to be read from the page. My advice would be not to waste your time trying to understand what they mean. Real poems don’t MEAN anything, they DO something. They do something to your consciousness. I hope these poems do something for you. –Lrod, 2010.




One response

18 03 2010
Johnnie Pegues

Okay, I’m going to read all this, but later when I don’t have the pressure of the day’s mundane tasks ahead of me. Like transplanting plants and walking the dog, all elements of my day. You’ll end my day, hopefully, in a more uplifting manner.

Thanks for putting these out there for the world. And me.


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