jared smith | understanding a greater purpose in poetry: the need for metaphysics and life outside the law

(Being an interactive outline essay) By Jared Smith, November 2007

I) Early poetry as understanding through patterns that are beyond conscious perception—epics the size and scope of life
A) Condensed language, scops, repetition, oral tradition, whale roads, gods and things bigger than anything that could be conceived—dragons, magic
B)How does this compare with an academic footnote for publish or perish?

II) The craft thing as a tool of poetry is only for remembrance and communication, but not for vision: echoes, heartbeats, patterns are craft things. The vision is greater than these. It grows within you, and you strive to share part of it with others and to have them share theirs with you, and if are lucky it never stops growing and reaching out from areas you have not yet named. Your life may be driven by vision, but the vision and your poetry must not be confined within your life.

III) Development of poetry and poetic technique has changed remarkably through Milton, Donne, Eliot, Ransom, Roethke, Bly, Merwin, Ginsburg, Levertov…
A) Increasingly, the poet is working with a more sensually-obtained or perceived universe as opposed to a predetermined theological one, but…
B) Ransom and Roethke are surrealists, but still metaphysical poets—The Lost Son, and the poem about the swan calling toward shore from within the sunset. Some have called Ransom one who worked in nightmares (Ball Turret Gunner,) but he is not because he searches for order and places the human existence within that order—mataphysics definition.)

IV) An audience of readers or listeners and those who make it up relate to patterns that are big enough to incorporate them; more so to patterns that give a dignity of meaning to themselves as long as those patterns are believable to them:
A) A pattern of sexuality is better than no pattern—Bukowski, Sexton, but even Bukowski has the days run away over the horizon like wild horses, which has an implied pattern of meaning bigger than sex or booze.
B) A pattern of trees holds more people, because they contain sexuality or reproduction or industry—or may—Bly, Merwin—and it is a more long lasting pattern and involves those things that are far longer lasting than man’s or woman’s immediate gratification from touching on the fleeting physical.
C) A poem only about one’s own gonads doesn’t draw in many listeners or readers since your gonads can—at the best of times—only satisfy one person at a time no matter how accomplished you may be. Your craft must be bigger. Go with the gonads if you got ‘em, but go beyond as well.
D) Poems must not be as other “entertainments” : they must be bigger, subtler, grander things that steal into the mind unbidden again and again after first being heard or read, for the words alone whether read or spoken are brief, and they lack the electric punch, the visual dazzle that film or dance or paint might have. To be successful, then the poem must be the voice of life, not entertainment.
E) Poetry may be the experienced jazz man of the soul, who knows more of the night and its shadows than the mercantile surfaces of his words would say in casual speech…and who rides the rhythms of autumn throughout the year

V) Turn back to broader patterns, greater complexity, extended self-defining metaphor where observed patterns repeating rhythmically through the heart and observed by mind and by the body have more eternality and more meaning for human dignity.

VI) Be outside the laws you learn in polite society and certainly outside those you learn in school, but search honestly and as though your life depends upon it—for it does, as no other science or entertainment can give you meaning– among the corners of life you come across. And search honestly among those around you who have other experiences as well, and listen to the patterns, and learn, and write. And there are no laws.

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