Sunday Treat – National Poetry Month – What’s the Appeal of Poetry, Anyway?

sundae2As I’m sure you know from memorizing all my posts, my favorite poem is “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot. Eliot believes of poetry,

“…there is an analogy between mystical experience and some of the ways in which poetry is written … “

I think he means that poetry shows us a new way of seeing. It can turn the ordinary into the marvelous. It can encourage us to see the beauty in the mundane, and the significance in the quotidian. It can teach us to see what we would have never even thought to see:

Who Has Seen the Wind?

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.”

The poet and novelist James Dickey, winner of the National Book Award for his poetry collection Buckdancer’s Choice, opines:

“The first thing to understand about poetry is that it comes to you from outside you, in books or in words, but that for it to live, something from within you must come to it and meet it and complete it. Your response with your own mind and body and memory and emotions gives a poem its ability to work its magic; if you give to it, it will give to you, and give plenty.”

Personally, I find that to be true of any sort of reading. But he adds:

“Part of the spell of poetry is the rhythm of language, used by poets who understand how powerful a factor rhythm can be, how compelling and unforgettable. Almost anything put into rhyme is more memorable than the same thing in prose. Why this is, no one knows completely, though the answer is surely rooted far down in the biology by means of which we exist; in the circulation of the blood that goes forth from the heart and comes back, and in the repetition of breathing.”

I think that both of his points must be true. The mnemonic value of poetry is more obvious, but his second point is more compelling. I listened to my blood circulating on an ultrasound test once, and it was amazing: like ocean waves, lilting and lulling in a way I never would have imagined, but a way that seemed somehow immediately familiar to me. Oceans and poems: I think it is the same. The appeal could be rooted in our very biology.

And here, for your Sunday treat, and to test it these theories for yourself, is Michael Gough performing my favorite poem, “The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock.”

Personal Note: Whenever Jim and I are at a social occasion, and one of us (usually me) wants to leave, I start: “Let us go then, you and I….” He continues, “When the evening is spread out against the sky..” And by the time I get to “Like a patient etherized upon a table…,” everyone is quite happy to see us depart! [an argument for the functional use of poetry….]


About rhapsodyinbooks

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19 Responses to Sunday Treat – National Poetry Month – What’s the Appeal of Poetry, Anyway?

  1. Charlie says:

    That’s a sneaky way to leave an event! I’m not familiar with poetry really, but I do love all the imagery. The way the words become something else and you can often forget about them because you’re just seeing the picture.

  2. Sandy says:

    HAHAHAHA! You two totally crack me up! I am not a big poetry reader but I find when I take the time and TRY, it settles me down. It also makes me stop and look at things differently, appreciate the poetry in nature that sometimes I overlook.

  3. BermudaOnion says:

    I love that you and Jim recite a poem when it’s time to leave! I doubt I could get Carl to do that!

  4. I love your “departure plan”!

  5. Jeanne says:

    I often say those same lines back and forth with my kids and husband, except our “capper” line is “let us go now, while we are still able.”

  6. sagustocox says:

    I really love your functional excuse for poetry! Thanks so much for being on the tour as always. I love the posts you present. It’s funny that this would be your post, considering my commentary on a WSJ editorial I read recently about the death of poetry!

    btw, Michael Gough looks as though he really loves this poem…with his expressions and his eyes that close on certain lines. I love that it evokes an emotional connection for him…it’s like he can’t help it — plus he’s one of my favorite actors.

  7. So much fun! The very things I also like about poetry 🙂
    And that is one great departure plan *giggling*

  8. YOu always make me smile even when it’s poetry and I know nothing about it! 😉

  9. Rita K says:

    Michael and I used to read eecummings to each other when we were first married. And I used to love writing poetry even though I wasn’t a good poet.

    I will watch for those lines now if and when you visit again. You and Jim are a real pair!

  10. Beth F says:

    Ha! (laughing at the leave a party story) I used to love poetry when I was young and have totally gotten away from it.

  11. I hate to admit it, but I rarely like poetry. not sure why….

  12. Stefanie says:

    Oh I love your James Dickey quotes! I agree with both of them. We do have to meet the poem, take it into ourselves. There is also something about poetry that fills a need, like your blood and ocean connection. It is like we have a strand of poetry DNA or something. I love how you leave a party! I think I would make you stay long enough to recite the entire poem though 🙂

  13. Melwyk says:

    “Oceans and poems: I think it is the same”

    I love this idea. The rhythms of speech and rhyme are special, and when you really feel a poem it seems to stick.

    Also a big fan of your exit lines!

  14. Your little ritual is adorable.

  15. lis says:

    Oh, that is lovely! I could listen to him read the telephone book, I think, but I imagine that the world would fall in love with poetry if they could hear it read by someone who truly knows how to do it. Gough does take the poem and bring the ocean feel to life.

  16. I am not into poetry (unless they rhyme hehe 🙂 ) and often time don’t understand it. But I do like the Wind poem you posted!

  17. Mary McCray says:

    I am a poet always looking for functional uses for it. I’m totally going to steal this departure dialogue for some as yet unknown occassion!

  18. Bryan G. says:

    I haven’t heard of James Dickey since I was in college when I took a few contemporary American poetry courses. I really enjoyed hearing his voice again, even if it was in prose. 😉

  19. Jenners says:

    I wonder if I can get Mr. Jenners to use your party exit strategy…

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