Saturday, March 19, 2011
Back in the days of yore, when I was in college, I talked badly about Miss Emily Dickinson. I thought her poetry was rather trite and lacking in substance. Her desire not to be published smacked of early marketing. What did I know? I allowed this dislike to fester until I spewed it all over an assigned paper. My beloved professor, Dr. Raymond Milowski, aka, The Bear, walked over to my desk one day just before class started and said, "You're being awfully hard on poor Miss Dickinson." So, I explained my stance around what I saw as her thinly disguised self-promotion. I do not recall the rest of the conversation. Class probably started and I was let off the hook.
It took many years and several attempts at altering my opinion before I finally had an epiphany of sorts and realized she might well be a genius and I should be ashamed of myself. I think it was this sentence that did it: "The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience." I wrote to Dr. Milowski and told him of my conversion. If you're still out there, Dr. Milowski, I again offer an apology for my belated awakening.
I feel surrounded lately by the call of poetry. It's everywhere. If I'm seeing something this often, I try to take a closer look at why. I may be going into my Poetry Period and I thought I should warn you. I woke up early this morning thinking about how I should deal with it. Another blog? For some reason that didn't appeal to me, so with all apologies and the distinct possibility of becoming a bore, you will probably be seeing more of it from me. Don't panic. I'm not talking about my own. I'm referring to those who are identified as such, and rightly so.
There are so many fine poets out there. When I see a name I'm unfamiliar with, along with a line or two, or maybe more, that cause me to stop and really listen, it makes me glad to be here, on this planet, at this time, despite any evidence to the contrary. Poetry is alive and well.
It can call up some powerful feelings, with song lyrics containing some of the most powerful, where poets as prophets tell us what to look for, the signs we should be heeding that might save us from our own undoing. Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and John Lennon immediately come to mind, but there are many others. My sons have introduced me to a few new ones, including Maynard Keenan, of Tool, who writes some of the most profound poetry I've ever read.
I think it fills a place that's essential to us, like air and water and food. It can nurture and sustain. There's a reason it fits so well with love. Sometimes, it can provide the right words, the right idea, as nothing else can. It spans generations, centuries, even millenniums, to bring us together, to find common ground. It can even be a form of prayer. And to whom are we praying, you might ask? To No One in Particular. To Life itself, perhaps.
So, with all due penance, here is Miss Emily Dickinson:
Exultation is the going
Of an inland soul to sea,
Past the houses - past the headlands -
Into deep eternity -
Bred as we, among the mountains,
Can the sailor understand
The divine intoxication
Of the first league out from land?
Addendum on October 28th, 2012: I have been informed by Dr. Milowski's son that his father passed away on October 27th 2012. I will do a post in his honor after the memorial service. This is very sad news for me.