My 12 year old daughter and I had a revealing conversation about poetry one night over dinner. I love poetry, enjoy poetry, in fact, could go so far as to say that poetry is emotional marrow of life. I believe in it. I have exposed my children to the finest of literature and poetry that I knew of from an early age. So it took me a little off guard when my daughter said she liked the “funny poetry, the stuff that makes you laugh, but the rest doesn’t make sense to me.”
I retorted from my gut “that poetry didn’t have to make sense, it just had to be true.”
Some time has passed and I’m still thinking about what I said and where it came from.
As I worked on a painting, I would ruminate over this newly held conviction that every single word of a poem didn’t need to be analyzed, but what was the message the poet was trying to impart. Could this message be found credible? Could it be Truth? And how would you know when your feelings can just come and go?
The only answer I could come up with is experience. To deem an idea, philosophy or scientific fact credible or trustworthy, there is but one way to see if it floats: put it to the test. The reason a love poem makes sense to us is because we’ve been in love. When we are sad, we are comforted by the poet who captures our tears and transfers them to words on paper. The reason we still read “The Canterbury Tales” is because a pilgrimage and the collecting of individuals along the journey is timeless to the human condition. We love this stuff !
Although Cavafy and I don’t share the exact same “Ithaka”, like Cavafy, I do hope my “Ithaka” does not deceive me. Frost’s “Night” is different from mine, but I do believe I have stood still and stopped the sound of my feet. And like Eliot, who never ceased exploring, I want to arrive where I started and know it for the first time. But Auden, my dear Auden, in my book you are half right! Yes, like you, my death grip on my life must go; however, in taking new risks I must continually drown to my first birth.
My Drowned Axis
I meant to leap and land,
I meant to look,
but dove 10,0000 fathoms deep instead.
Endlessly floating, weightlessly sinking,
into an airy grave of words.
Tethered and grounded revelations
reveal the tempests of shallow hearts.
Inspired by W.H Auden’s “Leap Before You Look”