The truth of poetry

Posted in Duff 'n Stuff

Duff ’n Stuff, Aug. 28, 2012

“In Search of Truth and Beauty” returns with my guest, poet Joni Takanikos, while I vacate the premises for an escape with my family to the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. Hoping the place lives up to its solar heated name, but if not, the deck is complete with a hot tub where I will repose with something good to read; poetry perhaps. Also, I will swim in the sea.

In Search of Truth and Beauty

By Joni Takanikos

Some people say that they don’t “understand” poetry. Even my sister, who has her master’s degree in English, claims to not understand poetry.
For me, poetry is sometimes exotic, but always clear, like the Caribbean Sea. Some of those metaphors are colorful fish and bedecked, patterned coral reefs. So be prepared as a reader to have your snorkeling gear at the ready, as well as your armchair and cup of tea.
And yes, sometimes poetry is risky and words will leap right off the high cliffs, knowing that whether they fly or end up dashed on the rocks below, they are words in service to poetry.
But often the straight forward description of “ordinary” events reads like leaping metaphors, which is proof that we walk through the doorways of poetry many times a day, and poets are the ones writing it down.
When Raymond Carver, a Northwest poet and writer, received a literary prize to write prose, he ignored the rules, and wrote prose poems instead. I can’t say that I know what his motivation was beyond not wanting to be told what to write, but I felt that he illustrated that the divide between poetry and prose is one we impose upon it.
For those who are avid readers of good literature, but who eschew poetry, I challenge them to take a descriptive paragraph from an author they love, create some line breaks, and voila!, a poem emerges clear as day, and full of the Truth and Beauty contained in words thoughtfully chosen.
One of my favorite authors is John Steinbeck, and many of his paragraphs strike me as poems. The following is a paragraph from “Of Mice and Men,” with line breaks one might give to a poem.

“The Swimming Hole” by Thomas Eakins.

There is a path through the willows/
and among the sycamores, a path beaten hard by boys/
coming down from the ranches to swim in the deep pool,/
and beaten hard by tramps who come wearily down from the highway/
in the evening to jungle-up near water./

In front of the low horizontal limb of a giant sycamore/
there is an ash pile made by many fires;/
the limb is worn smooth/
by men who have sat on it./

Don’t be afraid to swim in the deep pool of poetry, or to just float on the surface with your eyes closed and your heart wide open, like a summer’s day.

Joni Takanikos

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