Poetry: It’s All So Very Complicated

Poetry was my first love as a writer, and it doesn’t seem quite right to me to have a website or a blog that is absent of poetry. Each week I hope to feature one of my poems I have written in my career as poet that spans twenty-five years. Had I not been a poet, I would have never become a writer of fiction. I would have never become a writer at all. Though I have worked with words for much of life, I have discovered a faith in words that I lacked for so much of my life as a writer. Last week I found myself writing brief meditations or reflections on words and my attitude to them. I was surprised by the reflections I had written. I hadn’t realized how much my relationship to words had changed. And this from a man who considers himself acutely and intimately aware of words and how they live in me. Change is the only constant, the one numeral that appears in every formula in our lives. I suppose you could say, if only metaphorically speaking, that our lives are a series of mathematical equations that represent who we are, what we look like, what we think and those formulas are ever changing despite the fact that we do not notice the ever present   motions within and without us. It was inevitable that my relationship to words would change for the simple reason that I have changed. Added to this, or perhaps as a necessary part of this whole equation is the strange and even frightening political situation that we find ourselves in at the current moment where right wing politicians misuse and abuse words to such an extent that we question the very meaning of words and their efficacy to communicate an honest and original intent. Where words are intended to clarify, there are some who would use them to obfuscate and to confuse.

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  My respect and belief in the beauty and power of words came to me through the reading of Poetry, and through the writing of it. I have come to believe that words remain true to their meanings and what they stand for cannot be changed so easily. Twisted men twist words to twist the world in their own twisted visions. That they do so is more or less obvious. That we pretend not to notice is a matter of convenience and that convenience is poisonous and dangerous because it creates a dishonest culture that begins to lose a sense of itself. A respect for words is necessary for a society to respect itself and discipline its behavior. When we seek to untether words from their meanings, we begin to destroy the very idea of meaning. What does any life matter—what does any nation matter—without some kind of a meaning beyond power and money, without a transcendent reason for existence? Words carry us toward meaning and beyond the material world towards a transcendence. 

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  The words we use will either bear witness to the beauty of our humanity, our valiant struggles to dogood and to begood, or they will testify against us, recounting the many ways we betrayed our bodies, our minds, and our hearts—and the bodies, minds, and hearts of our fellow human beings. 

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  Words are not dead letters that sit listlessly on a page or a dictionary that yearns to be opened. Words are not inanimate but alive and imbued not only with the intelligence and wisdom of our ancestors—but imbued with an intelligence all their own. Words can be ours but only briefly in those ephemeral moments when we are engaged with them, for words are not possessions, words are not property and they belong to us all--but that belonging is not, and can never be, an ownership. 

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  American culture has never been comfortable with poetry. Perhaps this is a sign that we have not yet come to an honest examination of the language, the words we use. It is not poetry we fear but words. We fear words more than we respect them. When it comes to our relationship with words as a people, we more or less avoid the topic of words despite the fact that we are not shy about using them. We like to think of ourselves as an honest and decent people despite a great deal evidence that says otherwise. The fact of the matter is that we are careless with words and we often use them violently. We are far more careless and violent than we would have ourselves believe. This is partially due to the fact that Americans run from their intelligence and prefer to think of themselves as a simpler, more open people unencumbered by the pretentions of Europe. But the effects of our anti-intellectual leanings have, in part, led us to our current political crisis. If we do not understand, respect, and learn not to transgress against words and their meanings, how are we ever to learn to think? We all have intellects. Why run from the life of the mind? Why run from something that is within our nature to become? 

It’s all so very complicated. Perhaps I have said nothing here that sheds light on anything at all and I have wasted all these words saying very little. But words can’t really be wasted, now can they? Language regenerates and renews and it endlessly alive. Which does not mean that a language cannot be made extinct. How many languages have we destroyed in our insatiable desire to create powerful nations..

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  It would be lovely to think that poetry could get us out of the mess that we’re in. Lovely and naïve. On the other hand, I can’t help but feel that poetry does have the power to make us a better people. Not that we’re about to implement a national program that would test out that theory anytime in the near future. 

 

Diego Rico