Irish Papist

Irish Papist
Me and General Robert Lee

Friday, March 10, 2017

On Poetry

I wrote a poem today! I posted it below. And I wrote it because I suddenly got excited at the idea of poetry.

And I got excited at the idea because my office mate sent me a couple of his poems for comment. They were very good. I was too harsh on them at first (because I'm always trying to be honest and objective with my friends' literary efforts, and I often overcompensate). Each of them had a Larkinesque clincher that excited my benign envy, and excited me to write a poem myself.

But I wasn't only spurred to poetry by the example. I was also spurred by the conversation.

I've written a lot about chivalry lately, which seems to me to be a crucial element of a traditional view of the world-- especially today, when a traditionalist is up against political correctness, and might be tempted to become an out-and-out brute in reaction against it.

Today, it occurred to me that there's something intrinsically chivalrous about writing and reading and discussing poetry, because poetry (at least for the past few centuries) is very much the poor relative of all the literary arts. Nobody is ever going to buy a chateau from the proceeds of a book of poems. Indeed, poetry has a hard time even being read, never mind rewarded.

But the chivalry goes deeper. When we write poetry, or when we read poetry, we are being chivalrous towards the more tender, more rarefied, more fragile aspects of the human condition. Not that every poem has to be about daffodills, but all poetry tends to express the ideas and emotions that we would usually not express in prose, or in ordinary conversation.

But the chivalry goes even deeper than that. I think, when we read or write or discuss poetry, we are being chivalrous towards ourselves. For years, I felt that poetry writing was something to be ashamed about, or at least defiant about. I felt (though I wouldn't have said this) that I couldn't justify my poetry writing until I had become an Acclaimed Poet. Now, I no longer aspire to become an Acclaimed Poet, but I've marshalled enough chivalry towards myself to write a poem without feeling embarrassed about it. 

I also like that my office mate shows me his poems and we discuss them. It seems a very civilized and creditable thing to do, somehow. There is so little poetry in everyday life, expanding its time seems like a victory in itself. 

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