Why Poetry?

It’s been a couple years now since I started down the poetry path. It began as an impulse and has continued in the same way, helped along by structure and practice and feedback. I often wonder why I do it. Pragmatic inquiry and its application was my obsession for many years, and I can’t deny that many people find poetry valuable, even useful, but pragmatic and obviously-world-modifying it is not. There’s something about language and communication and humanity that I’m scraping away at with these stanzas and made-up words and rhythms.

What is language? An imperative? A dance between the executive internal subject and the uncontrolled other objects of cognition? Perhaps it’s an information exchange mechanism that is built to achieve various missions. I’m skeptical that there is a Chief Executive living inside every person, a mind with a soul that calls out here’s what we’re going to do next. The indeterminacy of time and reason, when measured by and attributed to human individuals (let alone groups), feels like a flimsy, whimsical structure to me.

And therefore, I write poems. I’m not trying to explain these mysteries, I’m attempting to experience them in real and fake time. I’m trying to take snapshots of my nose’s experience of the world, of my ear’s interpretation of late afternoon traffic. And sometimes look at them, sometimes discard them, and sometimes present these photographs for review by other people. That sounds a lot like what it looks like to be a person in the world. Observer, trash-producer, sharing machine.

It doesn’t tell me what I would do if I had power, other than probably avoid getting it in the first place. I don’t know what a universal good life looks like. I don’t know what I look like or feel like, or what the word “I” is even meant to signify. My confusion is a timepiece, a wristwatch in a dream: every time I look down to check the time, a different set of symbols and pictures and sensations are right there. And by looking, I unlock the fact of this lucid life, a transparency briefly offered in the chaotic opaque existence that precedes death.

And poetry is a response to death. Here you have them: my inscriptions, not for concrete, mostly for bit rot, but something to echo in this ultimately empty room. I will die and so will everyone who may remember something of that “I”. In an absolute sense, if my atheism proves out (no thank you, Pascal). May death arrive and may I walk there, generating words until the final, lucid breath.

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