Poetry and wine are liminal things. They live on the borderlands between the wild and the civilized, between reason and irrationality. Their territory is the unplanned, the unexpected, the pathless.
Source: Harry Eyres, Horace and Me: Life Lessons from an Ancient Poet (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), 48-49
Poetry is a lifelong companion and solace to many. To me it’s a distillation of life – whether in the grand sweep or in its small moments – painted and sculpted in words. At its best, it connects me to other people, places and times, stripping away the ephemera of surface difference to reveal what it is to be human; embracing both the joy and the striving of it.
As Adam Nicolson puts it, ‘a description, through a particular set of lenses, of what it is like to be alive on earth, its griefs, triumphs, sufferings and glories’.
All poetry is memorial. Much of it is elegy.
Source: Adam Nicolson, The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters (London: William Collins, 2015), 50
And paring down to the essence, it is one of the most vital and vibrant channels for capturing and transmitting human experience across distances of time and culture, or as a prism for understanding our own context. Ezra Pound described poets, like artists, as the ‘antennae of the race’, sending us signals from the past, the present and the possible, allowing us to fine-tune our sensibilities and our engagement with the world.
It also reminds us – me, at least – that the path we tread, a seemingly once-only learn-as-you-go time on this earth, has been trodden before. The finest poetry, that which endures, makes visible those footsteps on the sand. It’s a deep reassurance that we are not alone in our fears, hopes, or fragility.
This page brings together poetry-related posts including quotations, ideas and books that have delighted or edified me. Click on the book covers to read my whole-hearted quote-rich reviews.
We hold on to the highest poetry out of desperate need.
Source: Till I End My Song: A gathering of last poems, Harold Bloom (ed), New York: HarperCollins, 2010, xxii
See also Poems for my Family, a growing selection of poems I’ve carried around in my saddlebags for decades.