I wonder if an entomologist ever suffers from the cruel irony that deeply studying what he or she loves inevitably involves destroying it. In other words, you can’t dissect a live butterfly.

prayerwheelI often feel a similar catch-22 in my relationship with poetry. As a young, passion-driven poet unchained by academia I was comfortable and certain in a spontaneous, inuitive understanding of poems. With each foray into academia to develop my poetry, however, I feel more and more like the entomologist who must destroy and dissect for a living. Honestly, this process beats the joy and drive right out of me. My hope in the poetic world to somehow transform and enlighten readers grows more and more dim. I’ve come to realize that eloquence does not equal enlightened thinking, and that the poets who traverse their particular rat race can be as ignorant, self-interested and short-sighted as any corporate slug or other gangsta.

In other words, the path of the poet seems frighteningly similar to any other mundane attempt at self-preservation. And yet, even in that, there are light-packed jewels of true vision and altruism that completely inspire and envelope me. So in yet other words, I can’t let go of that hope in the power of the poetic vision.

I wrote the following many, many years ago:

“Poems are alive in the channel between the ear and the heart, and there only. Once it is someplace else—in the classroom, on a greeting card, analyzed in a scholarly journal—the poem can be many things, but it no longer lives. It is a corpse whose life you may reflect on and remember, but to your refracting and illusory statements and claims it will show only indifference.”


Do you agree or disagree?


About bensten

Teacher, writer, blogger and spiritual practitioner. Managing editor of bensten.wordpress.com.

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