Have we lost something here? Is poetry for sissies?
I included the poetry section because I felt it was so important to have something that re-connects us. I’d often felt like I lost the ability to express myself. And I felt like I lost the ability to speak about the things that wounded me, that made me feel vulnerable, and that also made me feel whole again.
Poetry helps me survive.
For some, speaking of such a thing, is weak. But I think the writer Amy Lowell (1874-1925) in her article titled “Why we should read poetry” summed it up pretty well for why we should read it. I’m not sure of her politics and beliefs and I don’t care. What was important to me was how she wrote that, “poetry and history are the textbooks to the heart of man, and poetry is at once the most intimate and the most enduring.” Real poetry that doesn’t copy or pretend to be something will never end up being derivative, stupid or insipid and remote from people’s lives. (Paraphrased).
It is something despite the odds, the circumstances, the fates, or the outcome of things, that we are still able to feel alive. Poetry is the art that makes us feel human and fills us when we’re starving or makes us feel raw. It allows us to remove our masks and get into the depths of our hearts. Poetry means men have written something with feeling, and awakens in us imagination. How many times have you seen the most amazing sunset during a patrol? And longed for something?
How many times were you able to grab a pen and paper and write a few lines that expressed what you were feeling? Poetry gets you to that raw place some don’t like to go. But getting in and out gets you stronger.
To dream, to feel, to ponder, to hurt again…and become whole. Poetry is intimate but social. I think that when people say poetry means nothing to them, it’s likely they haven’t found a poem or poet that speaks to directly to their heart. Brooke may appeal to one, while Auden to others. Today it might me Eminem. I don’t know. For me, it could be song lyrics from the Clash’s “I’m Not Down.”
How about Job 38:3-13? Stand up like a man and brace yourself for what I’m about to tell you. Excellent! And, If you want to get into the crude hilarity of poetry and a form of ‘rap’ that was practiced hundreds of years ago, then check out Scottish flyting. This is where opponents hurled poetic insults at the other. But I digress…
The director of the movie, the Grey, when developing the story wrote a few short words down; something simple, not complex. He was developing the movie character and I wasn’t surprised when just a few simple words appealed to so many viewers. His poem grabs you at the gut level. Sure, he stole from Henry V but the director’s not a poet. But at a basic level he captures the sense of most men. And I do agree with him here, that we must wake up to live every second fully and to leave this life exhausted, because we gave it all. The hero, played by the great Liam Neeson recites the poem to himself for courage before fighting the leader of the wolf pack:
“Once more into the fray.
Into the last good fight I’ll ever know.
Live and die on this day
Live and die on this day”
I feel that poetry is just one facet of the many parts of the Greek Whole man and Paideia that my Western Civilization teacher always talked about, 30 long years ago. The warrior-scholar. I think we must work to strengthen the parts of us that need strengthening. Spirit, Mind, Heart, Circle and Fist. Tuck a few lines from your favorite poem into the back of your mind and recite them from time to time. It gives strength and if you can remember a lot of verses you will exercise your mind.
Douglas MacArthur-Build Me a Son
So, I included military poetry in Spotter Up because poetry nourishes even the toughest hearts and helps us survive. A few lines of Homer or Hurd. Your choice. Some of the more notable poets were English writers, but the sentiment and the views sometimes run parallel with our own European perspective; freedom rather than dictatorships, democracy, individualism and service, bravery and lastly, they too celebrate the culture of the noble warrior who works to liberate others.
I’m not here to offer any poet complete condemnation or complete praise. I see them as the whole person. However, I will not honor wildly liberal authors who condemn this great country, whether the poet did it in writing or in action. They will have no voice here. This section is to honor those who worked to honor others.
Let’s be clear here. Writers like Sassoon were serving the ideas of liberty and not tyranny. They were writing about the brotherhood of service. They may have condemned their leadership, (such as Sassoon or Owen did) but they didn’t condemn the country that gave them the freedom to speak openly.
I won’t either.