There are those alleging that poetry is a dying art. I doubt that! As in most of art and many other human interests, from preservation of our wild lands to the sciences and humanities, to humanity itself, there are times of popularity and times of distraction. Poetry can never die, because it is the art of communicating what we see and feel in the most beautiful and meaningful nature of the words of our languages, in the simplest form of art.
I believe poetry is the first of all the arts of humankind, since all true art is original and unique expression. It is seen through the artists vision, and even if his vision might be abstract and difficult to express in words, so is the vision of poetry and people almost always “think” in the words of their language. The best artists think exactly as the best poets and if you look at good art you can see the poetry in it. It has purpose, it has form, it has expression of important ideas and it does not stray from any of those, even for a moment; even for a brush stroke, or the choosing of the perfect point to take a photograph from to capture what the photographer wants to capture and the physical development of the film or the changing of the lighting and even the colors in a program like Photoshop. “Form” is critical to the arts, and poetry has all of the characteristics of all of the arts and all of those arts are composed in the artists minds using the same form as the poet.
So the first human that painted something on a cave wall, was not reproducing images, but adding something of importance; his/her vision. The chant of the Sharma was poetic from the earliest of times, for purpose; for vision and beauty and even belief and faith in the best way the
Sharma knew how. From those chants came the arts of song and music. Song has always been poetic, and the music that arose from it took its “poesy” with it. Ask any classical composer how he composes, and without even the mention of the instruments he will speak of his communication of a vision in words he translates into the language of music.
How could the earliest consciousness of humankind not look up to the dark, starlit night skies and first express it with the words of his thoughts, to himself and to others. The “cave painters” of the first families and clans of intelligent humankind were chosen by their people to best express things of importance to them in their lives. They may have told him/her what they wanted, but not its form. They couldn’t write, but images were their first recorded words, and those first images had poetic vision to express meaning beyond sight, or the other senses, with the intention of including them.
Emerson called poetry “fossil language.”
“What a philosophy is encoded in those four words. Original seeing, and the first coinings of likeness, matching of sound to object or action, signifier to signified, is itself poetry. Which is to say, again, that poetry is attention, is complete openness to experience. Perception before the first coat of familiarity, the inevitable reductions of received wisdom. The study of Greek—I’ve not attempted it—is said to feel like an excavation, a laying bare, bringing one closer to what over centuries has calcified, retaining the shape signature but not the sap of the living thing.” – This is quoted from an article in prose from Poetry Magazine, issue in 2012, Emerson’s “The Poet”—A Circling, Translating the transcendentalist into today’s language, by Sven Birkerts.
No matter the beauty of my words, I sell no poems and very few books of poetry. Poetry most often cannot merely be read, as if glancing at a piece of visual art in an exhibition as one walks by. As with most pieces of art, it must be read again, looked at carefully to understand the meaning of the words. Otherwise it’s like a great piece of art hanging as a decoration. Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Cysteine Chapel, is not walked by. The very nature of its purpose demands one to stop and study it, and the longer one looks at it the more of its poetry, its vision, can be seen.
So I do not fear the death of poetry, for without it all of the arts would die and soon would humankind follow. It would mean the loss of intelligent consciousness, the cornerstone of human life. Rather, I expect the re-emergence of its popularity; unaccompanied by any of the other arts. The simplicity of words arranged in the art of poetry will be recognized and appreciated as art in its purest form.
– DF Riverson