Poetry in Notion – Does poetry help us in times of need?

Hello!

Poetry is the go-to in times of need for many of us, but does it help? If we look at social media, yes, yes, yes.

After the Orlando massacre, Maggie Smith’s poem went viral. It’s not about Orlando per se, but about life being brutish and short–

“No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

Thomas Hobbes.

A woman lights a candle during a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.

Good Bones

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.

Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine

in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,

a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways

I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least

fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative

estimate, though I keep this from my children.

For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.

For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,

sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world

is at least half terrible, and for every kind

stranger, there is one who would break you,

though I keep this from my children. I am trying

to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,

walking you through a real shithole, chirps on

about good bones: This place could be beautiful,

right? You could make this place beautiful.

BY MAGGIE SMITH

***

Events can seem too incomprehensible for ordinary language, so poetry can speak to us in precise language that fits the purpose.

It can be the language of defiance and protest, which is my favourite genre of poetry. I love poetry that packs a powerful message (who doesn’t get Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise?) — ‘you may trod me in the very dirt/But still, like dust, I rise,’ as relevant today as when she penned it in 1978. Okay, most of us know and love that poem, but when Serena Williams went on *youtube to read Angelou’s poem, it went viral.

In August last year, a Sydney activist for peace wrote an anti-racism poem then had to retreat due to the negative reaction.

Second Earth

In another world

Just like this one,

Parallel to mine,

Is a life where I never met you.

And for that I am grateful.

Stella Smith (not her real name)

***

We have in our blogger-midst some amazing poets such as multi-published Nilanjana Bose who many discovered through the A to Z. I’ve known Nila since the world began, or close enough. She joined RomanticFridayWriters in 2010, now WEP. (She won the latest WEP challenge, GARDENS! with her amazing Point me to…) Her poems always blow my mind, so I asked her to share one with us which she wrote in the aftermath of the #ParisAttacks of 2015.

Image result

All the world’s a war zone

The flowers dry, the candles burn;

both reach their ends. The world still turns.

The streets are full, the café chat

is about revenge, tit for tat,

air-strikes, mortal wounds, ground combat.

I cannot take in any of that.

I only know she won’t return.

Although each time the doorbell rings

my heart leaps once, instantly sings

then is brought to the days before.

She’ll never be back at my door.

The talk is thick with migrants, war,

how exactly to settle the score.

But I can’t relate to those things.

I just know that flowers dry rough,

that candles aren’t warm enough.

I just know my room’s gone cold,

my heart is shrivelled and grown old;

she’ll never again cross this threshold

whatever events might unfold.

That’s my truth, the rest’s just stuff.

***

The old classicist, William Wordsworth said: ‘…thoughts … often lie too deep for tears.’ A good poet can help put those thoughts into words…

As much as we hate poetry, we really love it, don’t we? Even when we don’t understand it completely. It can make a thing of beauty out of ordinary things (even tennis!)

*

Thanks for coming by. I don’t get to read much about poetry around the blogs so I’ve been thinking on this topic and shared my thoughts, random as they are. I think in the digital age, poets can fire off powerful words to encapsulate the horror, the capriciousness of life, the landscape of a world in turmoil.

  • What’s your take on poetry? Love it? Hate it? Indifferent?

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13 thoughts on “Poetry in Notion – Does poetry help us in times of need?

  1. I love poetry. It used to ne that they only way i could communicate properly was through poems. Poetry can’t lie. It always holds a least a small portion of the writers soul in it.

    I love these you posted!
    This world is very cruel at times. Sometimes it seems best to just pretend it all away for the sake of our sanities and that of our children. Sadly it all comes out in the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Denise – I’m glad you said you don’t understand poetry so well … I definitely need to read more – these poems you’ve listed here and the one in the comments are just mind blowing in today’s age – I’ll be back to re-read and properly take more in. I hadn’t seen Maggie’s … but then I’m not social media oriented …

    I quite agree Nila writes wonderful poems … there’s so much to think about and to comprehend … I really need to take a poetry course sometime – she has talent, that is for sure …

    Cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks for the link Hillary! No, I hadn’t heard of that, but I’m a great lover of song lyrics as poetry. At an alternative school, I once taught poetry using the lyrics of Eminem. Perfect.

          Like

  3. I’m afraid of poetry, but I love it. I’m afraid when I read it and don’t understand it. Afraid, I guess, that I’m not smart enough. I’m afraid when I write it that I’m doing it wrong. But I tend to add poetry in my novels or at least to have poetic lines in them. I’m bookmarking this post so I can come back and read the poems shared again. Thanks! We should all share poetry more often. (This is Christy from Erica and Christy. I don’t know how to post as my blogger account.) 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Here’s one that touched me:

    When Great Trees Fall by Mary Angelou —

    When great trees fall,
    rocks on distant hills shudder,
    lions hunker down
    in tall grasses,
    and even elephants
    lumber after safety.

    When great trees fall
    in forests,
    small things recoil into silence,
    their senses
    eroded beyond fear.

    When great souls die,
    the air around us becomes
    light, rare, sterile.
    We breathe, briefly.
    Our eyes, briefly,
    see with
    a hurtful clarity.
    Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
    examines,
    gnaws on kind words
    unsaid,
    promised walks
    never taken.

    Great souls die and
    our reality, bound to
    them, takes leave of us.
    Our souls,
    dependent upon their
    nurture,
    now shrink, wizened.
    Our minds, formed
    and informed by their
    radiance,
    fall away.
    We are not so much maddened
    as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
    of dark, cold
    caves.

    And when great souls die,
    after a period peace blooms,
    slowly and always
    irregularly. Spaces fill
    with a kind of
    soothing electric vibration.
    Our senses, restored, never
    to be the same, whisper to us.
    They existed. They existed.
    We can be. Be and be
    better. For they existed.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I too get depressed over the state of the world I’m leaving to my children. Both have chosen to be active in fixing it. It’s clear now that I was way too passive. We’ll see how it all goes the next twenty years.

    Liked by 1 person

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