I’ve been reading a lot of great books lately… Some, I’ve read through and am going back to spend more time with, and some are new for me. As I work through them, I’m posting a lot of quotes up here on the blog, and not really offering a whole lot of analysis to go along. I’m trying to get volume taken care of, I suppose.
Maybe that’s not entirely fair to the work I’m reading.
But I am getting a lot out of this exercise.
I have this idea, and I’ve written about it before, that U.S. society / culture is at a kind of ecstatic moment. A turning-point, if you will. The kind of cathartic moment when poets really need to be speaking, and listening, and being read. Because there is a divide in our culture.
I forget who first wrote it, that poets are the invisible legislators, but I’m not sure the sentiment is too terribly off. They write about the state of things–the possibilities of things–and they are not ones to shy away from pointing out what nobody wants to consider. The best write in such a way that a reader experiences a shift in perspective, a realization which may be infinitesimal, but nevertheless real.
If we accept that concept, then we can also propose that poets are at the bow-shock of cultural change.
I admit this is not the same as legislating laws. Congress would probably have a great conniption about that concept. But laws also follow well behind where culture goes, because it is the young who determine culture, but the previous generation (and sometimes twice-removed generation) who defines the laws. The Legislators are well behind the bow-shock, sitting comfortably at the helm.
So, if my generation of poets are at the bow-shock of cultural change, it is also possible we are pointing, yelling, screaming about the iceberg we might be headed toward. It is our responsibility to sound the warning, as it has always been.
It is also our responsibility to celebrate as loud as possible the beauty of our people, our culture, and our society.
As Don Share quoted today on twitter, Muriel Rukeyser wrote that “the universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” Which is true in a way–the way we understand the universe is created through the stories we tell ourselves. But the universe is made up of atoms as well. And other things which we don’t even have theories or names for yet. It is well we recognize that fact, and not hide our heads in the sand. The pressure of history and determination of our collective cosmology demands it.
I don’t think, however, that Rukeyser (or Share, for that matter) meant that recognition of our understanding of the universe should be left out of poems, but instead that poems still need to be comprised of poetry. That they still need to convey stories–those warnings and celebrations.
Now, I am aware that a lot of my poems are still trying to break through that wall. I am still trying to break through that wall of connection to story. The warnings and celebrations I have down, I think, as much as I can right now. But I have hard work to do to get through my current barrier, my own personal bow-shock.
This reading project is how I’m attempting to do that.
This blog is how I’m attempting to organize my thoughts.
I love the work.