Sunday 16 April 2017

Never simply the bird (some thoughts on what poetry does)

Poetry is that thing that happens between seeing the bird (or hearing the bird) and recognising the bird. It helps us to recognise the bird – but more than that – it helps us to understand the bird in some way, or to think about the bird (that ordinary bird that you see everyday on your street or in your garden) in new and different ways. Poetry adds meaning to the bird (or cat or house or whatever). Sometimes it puts the bird in a context we might never have expected, or it takes that ordinary common garden bird and shows us how extraordinary it is, and somehow it simultaneously tells us something about ourselves or about (human) life, love, meaning etc. The poet may not have set out to intentionally do this. He/she may simply have set out to write a poem about the bird or to write about the place that he/she always sees the bird, or about how the bird makes him/her feel. But that’s the beauty of (good) poetry – it does something secret, something other, it’s where the magic happens. Good poetry moves and changes the reader; it shows us new ways to put words together, it gives us new ways to feel and view the world, or it reveals to us something about ourselves and our own personal connection with the world.