2017-08-26 02:06:23 UTC
There are many who claim that poetry is useless or impractical. I see three very useful and highly practical applications for poetry.
One is that it can allow people to express what they feel or think about someone they care about, and as such can help to improve families, relationships and friendships.
Another is that it can allow people to articulate and work through their feelings and their thoughts.
And probably the most important one is that it can communicate one's understanding and realizations to other people and thus help all sorts of people in all sorts of ways.
Finally, in case of a good poem, you have produced something beautiful – something as such that adds to the civilization and the world.
In my life poetry has been far from useless. In my life poetry has been the saving grace. It is the reason that I was admitted on a full scholarship to an elite private school in Virginia. It is the reason I have most of my friends. It is the reason I've been with women who were extremely attractive both physically and personally when I am neither. There have been any number of people who have attacked me, frequently very viciously; but there are any number of others who love my poetry and my translations.
Another common slander against poetry is that it is reflection of mental illness. Of this there are two claims: Either that it comes from personality disorders (such as “sociopathic” or “narcissistic”) and that it comes from chemical disorders such as bipolar or schizophrenia.
The first is not hard at all to refute. In many places such as France, Russia and Italy, poetry is widely read and highly regarded by normal people, which would not be the case if it was limited to people with personality disorders. Poetry was highly respected in World War II generation, which unlike baby boomers has never been accused of any disorders at all. If someone is a sociopath and does not have emotions, he would not be attracted to a pursuit that extols feelings; he would be much more likely to become a businessman or a lawyer. As for narcissistic disorder, it would pathologize everyone from Gates and Rockefeller in business to Trump and Clinton in politics. There may be narcissists in poetry; but I do not see why there would be more narcissists in poetry than in business, politics, media, academia or law.
In case of disorders such as epilepsy, bipolar and schizophrenia, poetry may actually be a way to make something good out of a bad situation. In epilepsy there is heightened contact between right brain and left brain, which makes available for verbal expression intuitive understanding. That can be very useful for creative pursuits, and Dostoyevsky, who was an epileptic, produced some of the greatest literature in history, writing his greatest work during his epileptic fits. In bipolar and schizophrenia, there are available for conscious use the parts of the brain that are not normally accessed. This can likewise be very useful for creativity; and people with these disorders can achieve naturally the kinds of states that people in 1960s attempted to achieve with LSD.
Another claim that I've heard – this time from an editor in DC – is that the reason that poetry has become big in Russia is long winters. I have news for this person. Poetry is big in place like Lebanon and Greece that do not have long winters. There have been excellent poets coming from warm zones such as Iran, Mexico and Chile. Many of the better poets in America are black.
Then there is the claim that poetry is unrealistic. The response to that is that human world is what people make it, and something becomes realistic when people make it so. If there is greater demand for poetry and for arts in general, then more people who are willing to supply such things will be able to make ends meet. The solution is to stimulate the demand by getting more people to value these things. There is nothing unrealistic about this; it has taken place in the past even in the American history, and there is no reason why it cannot happen now.
I want poetry to become as big a thing in the English-speaking world as it is in Russia. There have been any number of excellent English-speaking poets in the past. Probably the biggest problem has been that poetry self-destructed. It was turned into cold cynical abominations called post-modernism and avant-garde. When I took a magnificent visual artist named Julia to attend an avant-garde poetry reading in DC, she said, “This is not poetry.” On the Internet group rec.arts.poems, I found the least poetic mentality of anywhere I have been. These people not only produced absolute rubbish, but they were absolutely vicious toward people whose poetry actually was poetry.
The best way to make poetry a big thing in the English-speaking world is to produce real poetry. Poetry that aims for – and achieves – things such as beauty and passion. It is to leave in the dust the post-modern and avant-garde gibberish and to produce something beautiful. People in Russia read poetry that is being produced in Russia. Using similar styles to produce poetry in English should create poetry in English that people actually want to read.
I can do the contemporary styles as well. For the most part, I choose not to. Julia told me also after the reading, “I hope you never write this way.” She was able to do excellent abstract art, but she preferred for her work to reflect classical sensibilities. I took the themes in her art and turned it into poetry. The result was a book (https://www.amazon.com/Poems-Julia-Mr-Ilya-Shambat/dp/150234369X) that made me – and her – the talk of DC poetry scene.
I want to resurrect poetry. And that means clearing away both the misconceptions about poetry and the post-modern and avant-garde nonsense and producing poetry that aims for – and achieves – beauty and passion.
Things that poetry is meant to be about, and things that have been present in poetry that people actually want to read.