friday roundup: poetry? what is poetry? edition

“Wheat Field” by Van Gogh (wikimedia)

Hello, Reader. Happy first Friday in June. I woke up this morning wondering what I could say about poetry today.

Poetry? I said to myself, What is poetry? It sounds familiar but…

This week, I can tell you a lot about end-of-year nuttiness at school; giving choices to the Resident Teenager about returning his science textbook (“You can take it in yourself today, or you can forget again, in which case, I will take it in tomorrow and you will pay me for my troubles. I charge $60/hour in half-hour minimum increments.”); how in California you can, apparently, get a sunburn at 8:30 in the morning while attending 5th grade “graduation” (for those who may not realize this: it’s actually impossible to get a sunburn at 8:30 in the morning in the midwest); how I tried to fit in one million errands and appointments before the end of the school year. Which is today.

There has not been a lot of poetry going on around here.

So I’m going to share a few things other, more qualified people have said about poetry. I like to collect definitions of what a poem is and/or what poetry is. Here are a few of my favorites:

““If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me I knowthat is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way?” —Emily Dickinson

A poem is “a small (or large) machine made out of words.” —William Carlos Williams

Poetry is “an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that.” —Mary Oliver 

“(P)rose—words in their best order; poetry—the best words in the best order.” —Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.” —Rita Dove

“Poetry is a political action undertaken for the sake of information, the faith, the exorcism, and the lyrical invention, that telling the truth makes possible. Poetry means taking control of the language of your life.” —June Jordan

“The poem is a plank laid over the lion’s den.” —James K. Baxter

“To me, poetry is somebody standing up, so to speak, and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment.” —Galway Kinnell

And now for one of the very few poems I read this week (how my heart hurts to say that), with thanks to Kelly Cressio-Moeller, my poetry partner-in-crime, for pointing me to it.

Here is “The Field” by Christopher DeWeese published in The Atlas Review.

And happy summer vacation!

4 thoughts on “friday roundup: poetry? what is poetry? edition

  1. i like so much: Poetry means taking control of the language of your life. if that’s therapy, i’ll take it!
    lots of love, a.

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