More Earthy Crunchy

Speaking of Tolkien and Lewis (and pretty much anybody from the Western Tradition) when did poetry become the exclusive province of buttercup twirlers and ne’er do well dilettantes and the subject of snickers from Gradgrind conservatives? Poetry has sustained men going to valiant death in battle and held countless bodies and souls together, as well as sustaining ordinary people like daily bread. It has given to us words to express what the Wall Street Journal or the Limbaugh Letter or (pardon Rod) National Review could not come within light years of speaking. So why has it received such studied neglect from people who are serious about conserving the best of the human race?

It is, I think, extremely significant that there was such an outburst of poetry after 9/11 among Americans. There are emotional heights and depths which only poetry or music can reach. If you are serious about preserving the human legacy reflect for a moment on the fact that the earliest writings we have are poetic. Poetry is not a “development” from prose. It is the other way round. Music is a sort of cooled version of the molten joy of trinitarian ecstasy that made the world. Poetry is language attempting to be music and prose is at its best, only ossified poetry.

And another thing: not all poetry has to be grim and serious. Here for example is US Poet Laureate (yes, we have one) Billy Collins’ delightful “Forgetfulness“.


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