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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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I am not arguing that poetry and all the arts should be didactic or political tracts. Far from it.

No Theory

No theory will stand up to a chicken's guts

being cleaned out, a hand rammed up

to pull out the wriggling entrails,

the green bile and the bloody liver;

no theory that does not grow sick

at the odor escaping.
David Ignatow

Poetry is the search for truth. It marries outer to inner. It probes reality with words. It suggests, states, intimates, all the while inviting the reader to enter into a raid on what was previously unspeakable. This exploration is composed of ideas, images, and words arranged in ways that engender powerful emotions and thoughts. Like life, a poem swims in mystery. Sometimes it carries a tune that moves the words, and the reader is moved in return. Sometimes it is out of tune to jar the reader out of a life of complacency with no questions asked, no disruptions. True poetry startles. It inspires. It enlivens.

It is a distillation of the human spirit, as essential as bread. It is composed of a few simple ingredients, as is bread. They are: the real, actually existing, outside world, and us; the outside world that we are in and that is in us, and our emotional thoughts about our condition. Flour, water, and yeast. The bread rises, the poem forms. They are good or bad, depending on taste. They nourish or don't. But we cannot live without them. Thomas McGrath writes:

On the Christmaswhite plains of the floured and flowering

kitchen table

The holy loaves of bread are slowly being born:

Rising like low hills in the steepled pastures of light-

Lifting the prairie farmhouse afternoon on their arching


While academic hucksters churn out reams of solipsistic verse of hallucination and artifice, our true poets passionately address issues that count and should be of concern to the average person: questions of value and ultimate concern, of life and death, of meaning or meaninglessness, of truth and lies.

In a screen and selfie culture, these matters are irrelevant.

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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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