Wrote this thirty minutes before the deadline. Drunk, and forgot I had a paper to pass that night, so forgive the bullshit. :D
A synthesis/reaction paper for Poetry class last semester.
The Possibilities of Poetry
It is a popular thought that it is in the hand of the poets to maximize the use of language. After all, language and the processing of thought through it is perhaps the great divide between humans and animals. Without language, the world would be void of all color, of all sound, of all meaning.
More than providing a reflection of the world, poetry recognizes and recreates. Recognizes, because through a heightened sense of awareness, of appreciation from the simplest to the grandest of things, the world becomes both familiar and strange again. Recreates, because it puts up a specific experience, a specific frame, and urges a reader to stop and live in it, if only for a little while. Like a photograph, poetry points to the mundane and makes it remarkable, probing one to never view something the same bland, monotonous way ever again.
What then, sets poetry apart from any other scientific hypothesis or philosophical theory? Don’t they also take a specific phenomena, break it down to the smallest bits, and analyze every fragment with utmost meticulousness? Don’t they present facts of experience as well, that upon recognition, never allows one to proceed living unless said outlook is utilized to acknowledge what the world is?
While there will be eternally great reasons to respect the sciences and all its breakthroughs, poetry employs one thing that any other discipline could not, for if they do, an outlook will be tainted, thus null and void. Poetry makes use full use not only of language and that insatiable need to understand the world around man. Poetry recognizes the role of the human person, sentiency, and encourages him to free his rational impulses to participate in the unfolding of another man’s encounter. In a world where objectiveness is the mandated rule in discovery, poetry defies barriers and substitutes human subjectivity to be able to fully appreciate and bask in words that are not mere words anymore, but instead are representations of the constituents of the human soul.
It is indispensable in a Poetry class to study the basics, for how could one proceed without the identification of tools that will pave the way for the destination, that is self-discovery through verse? By recognizing the elements, one is able to take the whole much more effectively, pointing out interrelations and why they are crucial for a poem to be a full-blown experience, not just a bunch of casually strewn sentences stringed up to make a point. How could a persona’s tone not correlate with the voice employed? How could imagery be effective without metaphor? How could a specific enjambment not be directly responsible for the delay or relaying of meaning, as if it was a secret the poet hides behind jumbled words and the reader has to play his game, otherwise end up confused and unsatisfied? It has now become an affair, a reunion of all parts. It may be that in elementary English classes, one is just asked to point out what the mood was, count how many stanzas there are, and give a short description of what the poem is about. Such may used to qualify for an analysis back then, but once these elements are studied in-depth, a student could now embark on the full journey the poem originally wanted to go – perhaps using imagery as the steering wheel, the structure as the engine, the rhyming scheme the tires that enable it to go forward, and much more.
How the poem is shaped also very much influences an understanding of it. Visual or shape poetry gives more than a pretty picture made up of words, one is given an immediate understanding of it even before reading. Written in free verse, the focus is now shifted to the overall meaning and structural elements are downplayed. As a narrative, a poem takes a reader through time and changes, making a story come alive. What the poem is about, of course, one could only find out after a thorough reading, and thus making him qualified to classify it into a genre. Of course one is not limited to a specific prototype – it may be that political poems boasting of immense devotion to a country or an issue is taken as a love poem, for what greater love is there than love for fellow men? These elements, types and genres all cross over and work together, unifying to provide not just an experience but an imprint in the mind of any reader that comes across it.
Improved critical thinking and heightened sensitivities, as promised, are achieved. These are direct offshoots of being asked to not only understand but also to interact with the poem and all its elements. These however, are not just lofty goals one puts up in a course description to garner attention. In hindsight, these are aimed for because they are the basic requirements so one would be able to live a good life, whether it be the Aristotelian, the Epicurean, or whatever is appropriate in one’s time. One must be able to exercise freethought, refusing to succumb into any dogma or norm just because it is thought to be correct. Through thinking critically, one breaks false conceptions and takes in the world differently, more rationally,and proceeds through living never letting go of this temper. By heightening one’s sensitivities, one is exposed to the human experience, from the woes of the working class to the joy one gets from love and whatnot. He shares through these moments by realizing he is one with the world,a part of humanity who thinks as much as he feels. As a result, one do not just go through life asking questions and finding answers. He goes through his existence with purpose, and that is to find meaning.
Perhaps the greatest contribution of poetry is its refusal to succumb to mediocrity. A lover of words does not only live day to day, as if a robot going through a routine. Rather, he aims to give depth not only to each moment. He appreciates each and makes use of them to their fullest extent, and recreate each one as if to look back on them, dwelling on possibilities, through lines and verses.
The Tradition of Poetry class does not just expose students to the thoughts and reflections of great poets who have lived long before these students were conceived. They are not merely asked to read countless poems, give a summary of each, and point out its elements. First, it convinces the student to step out of the shadows and stop for a while to live in another man’s shoes, as whatever is in store on this other dimension will be worth his while – perhaps having the ability to influence his thinking, his feeling, his relating and living. Second, and perhaps the more remarkable point, is that this class allowed students to study the road poetry has paved, but also encourages him in a beckoning whisper, to take part on this road and mark his place in it.