Poetry Today (in Perilous Times)…1

Wouldn’t every previous generation say that they lived in “perilous times” or as in the Tao, “interesting times” at the very least?  So many of us have a connotation of poetry as  an archaic (if not boring) language and irrelevant to “modern life.”

How do we get potential readers to cross that chasm of calcified thinking regarding poetry to a reinvigorated and revalued view of poetry?  Is there a place in a relatively newly minted culture where poets and poetry are elevated, revered?  That poetry activates both one’s emotions and values could be one reason that it isn’t welcomed in a society that wants to control its constituents.  There isn’t often comfort in living outside the box.  However, there is power in it.

How does anyone realize that within him/herself, perhaps a dormant inner poet or artist lives?  Sometimes the inner poet comes to life out of despair.  Nothing else seems to suffice.  Nothing else calms or soothes.  Sometimes, she is revived through love.  Sometimes, it is when change is forced and the hand you’ve been dealt doesn’t seem to have an open door–poetry can provide the doorway.

Poetry is not only a bolster for the faint of heart.  In fact, poetry is for everyone and especially in these times.

Consider Wendell Berry, novelist, poet, essayist, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer, an earth-connected poet of our times.  I love his bit of a poem about salad

“Wash your hands, get them good and clean,
Hurry and find a basket
Let us gather a salad, and so unite
To our passing lives this seasons fruit.”

How relevant is this four line stanza to your daily experience of life?  These days, you better be sure to wash your hands!  Of course, too many of us don’t have a garden to gather lettuce leaves for a salad.  Perhaps there is a farmer’s market nearby or at least a marketplace that gives you that feeling.  However, you gather your salad fixings, to pause and remember our unity to the food that we consume is like a prayer.  Our lives are fleeting and the food we eat to sustain us lends quality to our lives (or it doesn’t)…well, it’s all expressed in this stanza.

Poetry can bring awareness and value to the things we take for granted.  It provides the pause we need in our overly busy lives.  Giving attention to such things makes for a more conscious society.




The reactions to this name run the gamut.  Memories of being assigned to read Shakespeare in high school are resurrected from a gallery of memories.  What was your reaction to reading SHAKESPEARE back then?  Has it changed today?

While I recognize the genius in Shakespeare, it it is a real mental gymnastic for me to adapt my mind to reading the archaic language of his time and place.  How is it for you?  When I do follow the impulse, I discover once again the genius and the relevance to our times, to the commonality of the human condition across time.  His writing encompasses the human drama, comedy, satire, fantasy, romance, politics, etc.  I am not a scholar of Shakespeare, not nearly.  However, I have enjoyed the BBC films that rendered Shakespeare palatable.  I admit to especially enjoying the comedies.

One thing that is of note…Shakespeare’s works are plays.  Therefore they lend themselves better to being spoken than read.  When his words are enacted, they have the dimension that they were intended to have.  A play is meant to be performed.  Therefore, if you get a chance, either watch a film or see a play.  Do you notice the difference yourself?  Do you feel engaged in a different way?  Does viewing a play (or film) give you an expanded appreciation for his genius?


I have viewed  A Midsummer Night’s Dream more than once.  I am always delighted and inspired by the wit of the story.  The cast of characters are engaging, enthralling, mischievous. I’ve enjoyed Michael Hoffman’s version of this tale.

“Having once this juice,
I’ll watch Titania when she is asleep
And drop the liquor of it in her eyes.
The next thing then she, waking, looks upon
(Be it on lion, bear, or wolf, or bull,
On meddling monkey, or on busy ape)
She shall pursue it with the soul of love.”

A trailer from Michael Hoffman’s 1999 film.