Wednesday, November 28, 2007
The lovely, always inspiring, Ms. Glamourpuss, has awarded this blog with “The Roar for Powerful Words”. As I can only take credit for the poems I’ve chosen, I should like to allow these very poets their say on what makes for good writing. My dearest thanks to Ms. Puss and for her two fabulous blogs I daily look forward to.
One of my favourite essays on poetry, “Once in a Poem”, is written by John Berger. A long time ago these words breathed life into me and I’ve not since forgotten them.
“Poems, regardless of any outcome, cross the battlefields, tending the wounded, listening to the wild monologues of the triumphant or fearful. They bring a kind of peace. Not by anaesthesia or easy reassurance, but by recognition and the promise that what has been experienced cannot disappear as if it had never been. Yet the promise is not of a monument. (Who, still on a battlefield, wants monuments?) The promise is that language has acknowledged, has given shelter, to the experience which demanded, which cried out.
“Poems are nearer to prayers than to stories, but in poetry there is no one behind the language being prayed to. It is the language itself which has to hear and acknowledge. For the religious poet, the Word is the first attribute of God. In all poetry words are a presence before they are a means of communication.
“…Everything depends upon . . . how the writer relates to language, not as vocabulary, not as syntax, not even as structure, but as a principle and a presence.”
Next. Seamus Heaney in describing Robert Lowell’s final poems writes “… the reader is kept in the company of flesh and blood.” Helen Vendler writes of Lowell’s verse, “Finally, the test of a poem is that it be unforgettable, the natural held in the grip of vision.” For no other poet do these words ring most true. By these measures I too have tried, as a poet, to live by.
Third. Here ultimately is what Robert Lowell had to say about writing verse. The extract is from the poem “Epilogue”.
Pray for the grace of accuracy
Vermeer gave to the sun’s illumination
stealing like the tide across a map
to his girl solid with yearning.
We are poor passing facts
warned by that to give
each figure in the photograph
his living name.
My five nominations for the next recipients are forthcoming.