Bind me with your words
Colorful letters on page
Bare your soul to me
(Originally posted 7/22/2014)
A while ago I put up a half joke of a post tying silly meanings to shallow poems. Before that I posted why I use the tools of poetry to help my prose. Today I want to go a little deeper and talk about why people write “real” poetry and why we actually read it.
We can look at the simile and metaphor, illusions and allusion, seek the beat and the timing, sometimes even rhyming, but that’s not what a poem is about. A poem is about connections. It is to share ideas, express feelings and touch a human spirit that we read those words. It’s about connections; communication.
People write poems to express themselves. It can be the wonder of a flower or the distress of a tormented soul. It can be a trifle nothingness or hold the deepest meaning, though usually falls somewhere in between. It’s the self-expression, and the interpretation, that’s important.
A poem can describe the mundane in fantastic terms. To tell of a flower, with the elfin twists of its mother of pearl petals and its dragon wing leaves, might give a clearer picture than a detailed description. Sometimes the beauty of how the words are put together and sometimes the visions they create, stop us in our tracks and bring us to another world, the world in the poet’s mind.
And it is that mind we are looking at. For more often than flowers and trees, poets often talk about thoughts and feelings. We sometimes seem so alone in the world, cut off in our own heads from everyone else. Do those people even exist out there or are they just shadows? As John Donne reminds us (in prose), no man is an island. Sometimes it’s the words of the poet that connects us to the continent of others.
A person can name an emotion or describe it, but a poet can make you feel it. A poet can use words to let you experience their mind; their soul, if you will. You can catch a glimpse of that which can’t be caught and see in words that which is impossible to describe. Their job is to name the nameless.
You can feel the longing and pain, the joy and delight, the sadness, the gloom, and the triumph. You can see, hear and taste it, though the emotion may have no form, sound or scent.
It can be an allegory or in brief, a metaphor, using one to describe another. I can speak of a field to describe my calmness or a salvage jungle beast to make you understand my most primitive feelings. But it doesn’t have to be such. A poet can describe the scene of their emotions in the same way they can describe the scene in the mountains or inside a house. They can talk plainly but use magical words.
So that is what it’s about – our shared humanity. A good poem can transcend distance and culture and it can transcend time. We understand the mind of the ancient Greeks as easy as we do the minds of the moderns. It’s a shared language, even when we speak in different tongues.
Interpretation, now, that is a different story. We can all read these words in many different ways. Who can say what they truly mean? That, however, can be a topic for another post.
So what do you think? Have you ever seen another’s soul through their poems, caught a glimpse of their true selves through their words? Have you touched a person dead a thousand years or separated by a thousand miles?