Reply to Madonna’s definition of poetry

December 5, 2010

I understand what Madonna is saying about words being symbols that distance us from actual experience.  She also points out that true poetry is the unfolding of a rose bud, not the words that describe the rose.  (Pause while we all think of Shakespeare’s quote about “smelling as sweet….”) 

I don’t, however, agree that men cannot write true poetry.  I believe that poets sense and then communicate those very experiences for others who cannot, or do not, sense them for themselves. 

In our readings earlier in the semester we read “Poems Are Not Luxuries” by Audre Lorde.  I think she hit the mark when she wrote, “Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought” (283).  Often we do not know what we think until we say it out loud.  I would argue that we often do not know what we feel until it is framed and given form by some kind of symbol, whether it be words, or lines and colors on canvas, or lyric and rhythm in music.  

Words may be mere symbols, but they are all we have to communicate with.  And one impulse all poets share—writers and artists too—is the impulse to communicate what they have seen, or sensed, or realized.  

Adrienne Rich talks about approaching poetry in order to “call up images that were in danger of being forgotten or unconceived” (18).   Poets are archivists of “the moment.”   They try to cup in gentle hands the fragile pieces of life about which Madonna is talking.

(Debbi S.)

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