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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 2/16/17

Without Poetry We are Dead: With It We Die Living

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evolutionary characteristics, in particular of death,

which foreknowledge terrorizes the content of skulls with,

is the fundamental project of technology; however,

pseudologica fantastica's
mechanism's require:

to establish deathlessness it is necessary to eliminate those who die;

a task attempted when a white light flashed.

Here in seven lines a poet tells us why Americans are addicted to technology and where this is leading -- nuclear annihilation. He reveals the death fear at the heart of the technological obsession and its self-defeating consequences. He tells a truth few want to hear, and in doing so fulfills the age-old prophetic function of art -- poetry, drama, painting, etc. Acting as "antennae of the race," in Ezra Pounds words, genuine artists grasp by their art the unconscious conflicts most prefer to avoid at their peril. In a country addicted to ingesting technologically produced mind altering drugs and to being consumed by machines, it is no wonder that poetry is considered irrelevant.

In many other countries, poets are held in high esteem and their poems affect people's lives; people know their national poets' work by heart. The Russians know Pushkin; the Irish can recite Yeats; the Chileans revere Neruda. They find hope and joy and the passion to resist oppression in their verses. Their poets take them to places where passionate love of the world can be awakened in their hearts and minds. In the U. S. they are ignored, at best. Why bother with them is the unspoken assumption. What good is poetry? We have our machines.

And if by some small chance Americans do bother, they find that a great deal of what passes for poetry is worthless drivel churned out according to formula by "creative writing" students and their mentors who have carved out a safe place for themselves in American colleges. Behind a fa├žade of seeming profundity and studied ambiguity hides a nihilism that can best be described as a bad joke. Much of this academic poetry is just plain trivial, devoid of ideas and any lived encounter with world events that so deeply influence our lives. So much of it is solipsistic in the extreme -- "selfies" in verse written from within a bubble.

I will elide Hallmark poetry at the risk of ridicule.

There are, however, many profound and wonderful contemporary poets, and it is a shame they are not read. They work in the shadows. They are not household names as in the past when literature meant something to Americans and they weren't despondently depressed and drugged into a zombie-like passivity. Perhaps this is because, as the philosopher/psychologist Rollo May puts it, "The poet's way is the opposite to the opaque, placid life. In authentic poetry we find a confrontation which does not involve repression nor covering up nor sacrifice of passion in order to avoid despair, nor any of the other ways most of us use to avoid direct acknowledgment of our destiny."

In an age of constant death and war and smiling killers sitting in the White House, who seeks out today's Kenneth Rexroth? "Thou Shalt Not Kill" was written in the "placid" 1950s. One verse follows.

You,

The hyena with the polished face and bow tie,

In the office of a billion dollar

Corporation devoted to service;

The vulture dripping with carrion,

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Educated in the classics, philosophy, literature, theology, and sociology, I am a former professor of sociology. My writing on varied topics has appeared widely over many years. I write as a public intellectual for the general public, not (more...)
 
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