Wednesday, September 08, 2004
what are poets for?
I found this article while leafing through old magazines in the office. This is by Gemino Abad, from the Jan-Feb '03 edition of Flip. It was quite a good read for me, it made me realize a lot of stuff. And so I thought others should read it too. Quite long (dragging at parts), so prepare yourself.

A poet's own private clearing always stars with some such question. It is a good way to start the year and perhaps, like a caterpillar, turn a leaf and sleep and wake up a transformed creature.

What are lawyers for? Law. What are poets for? Language. But both law and language are instruments, one for the cause of justice, the other for our sense of reality.

The poem isn't a language, it is the living become word. "Get real," I always remember Franz Arcellana saying at writers' workshops. Words do not have their meanings from themselves, but from lives lived. It isn't 'meaning' that language carries, it carries you. The poem's rhythm is the very sensation of living.

If the poem's language isn't adequate for its subject, which is a moment fully lived, it isn't a poem; the subject eludes it, or we read only among its ruins. On the other hand, if the poem depends too much on language, it isn't a poem either. The poem must always transcend its language, and not be entangled in the language's endless play of meaning. That infinite regress is the curse laid upon the mind's hubris that denies spirit and mystery.

What is fixed in the poem is not meaning, as in interpretation, but rather, a meaningfulness that, for one thrilling moment, is all of life for one human being. All of life, that is, the very sensation of living, of being real to oneself, with all that lives. And that one human being is the poet only, but opens that moment's meaningfulness to all the poem's readers.

Let me elaborate a little. As regards justice, we may be betrayed, and as regards our sense of reality, we may be deceived. As the poet Ricardo M. de Ungria puts it in a poem called Afternoon with Young Writer & a Cup of Coffee: "You must find your way back to the real world. / It is always new, and not always true." The uses of law and the uses of language - both must be subject to reflection and change, or we fall blind to "the shape of a reachable perfection", as another poet, Luisa Igloria, says in a poem called Rings. This is why, with statutes and decrees as with poems and stories, interpretation is critical, a word sprung from crisis, from Greek krinein, which means to "divide and judge."

No matter de Saussure, words have their meanings from lives lived. Our words carry us, give us our exact weight, and define all possibilities. Yes, every word speaks other words, and may transform itself through the history of usage in ever-changing contexts, but once it enters a poem or story - a new organic system, as it were, within the vast system of language whence it came - it elicits from every reader subtle evocations of each one's lived experiences. In fact, what we usually take as the word's connotations and associations of meaning are really those nuances and shades of lived human experience from which they draw their color and verve.

That is how poem or story transcends its language for every reader, because its subject is the living become word. Get real, have a life: that's what every poem or story tells us; its language has only been a means, at times a powerful instrument, to help us achieve a sense of our reality. That is even how we achieve our humanity.
dezphaire strapped in @ 9:46 AM  


  • At 9:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    yeah, this struck something in me din when i read it :) glad to see it posted :)

    he's got a new book called 'getting real' which is about the craft of writing poetry. di sya really 'how to' kasi it has a lot of these philosophical moments - but more of a discussion on the art and reading of poetry... you might find it interesting :)

  • At 11:05 AM, Blogger dezphaire said…

    Cool. I'll be on the lookout for that. I really don't find any substance in those functional "how-to-write-poetry" books. You have to inspire a writer, not tell them what to do.

    That's why I love Rilke's "Letter to a Young Poet." It's one of my favorite books. I never get tired of reading it.

  • At 6:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    rilke, yeah, rilke's cool :) don't read as much poetry as i want to, but i remember this line from his poem 'blank joy'

    "if we had to exist to become the one we love,
    what would the heart have to create?"

    i must confess i'm not exactly sure what it means :) ahehehe



<< Home

My Photo
Location: Philippines

Sometimes bored. Most of the time oddly alive. Phobic of butterflies. Creatively suppressed. Hungry for coffee and shoes. This is my subconscious talking... at times interrupted by my reality.

previous stabs
top of the shelf
the closet
shop around
my shoebox
poetry & lit
reklamadorang ako
launch station
This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from dezphaire. Make your own badge here.
tag me

soundtrack of the moment
Jealousy, turning saints into the sea. Swimming through sick lullabies, choking on your alibis. But it's just the price to pay, Destiny is calling me. Open up my eager eyes 'cause I'm Mr. Brightside -- "Mr. Brightside" The Killers
All words, verses and art are copyrighted to me unless otherwise specified. Authorization and reference required for any form of reproduction or use. Much thanks for your respect and support.
Thanks to ImageShack for Free Image Hosting
Kukote Meets The Beauties
fashion dress up games

Powered by Blogger