Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Confession Tuesday: What does a poem…

 notes on poetry by Anaïs

What does a poem awake within me?

It is not the admiration for the poet’s craft. There are poets who master the craft of arranging words in exquisite forms but they are not always among my loved ones. I am often amazed by their craft, but the craft on itself was never enough. I once told Nim  when playing Scrabble that it seems more difficult to find the proper words when your letter choices are so limited than when one writes a poem and every letter is so easily accessible. He smiled, and I knew what he thought. Craft does matter, I said, but to master words as the sum of their letters was never enough to call one a poet.

It is not the imagery in a poem. There are poems weighted by the colors and shapes and marvelous landscapes one can discover by reading them. But why write a poem to express something that a good photograph or painting can do much better? Nim said: because in a poem you can touch the rock and feel the grass, but in a picture you cannot. I did not knew how to tell him that often, when watching Monet’s Sunset I felt the warmth of the sun withering from my face and the coolness of the dark blue covering my forehead, my eyes…

It is not astonishment before the ideas contained – poems are not the works of the philosopher chasing madly after the pure form. Even if there are poems that bear more truth than a philosophy book laden by portentous words and intricate reasoning reminding me the jumps and swirls of the acrobat beneath the circus tent.

What kind of magic effect does this poem achieve? Three simple lines which are neither smartly put, nor esthetically accomplished but do puzzle a well educated man the same as (does) a Zen problem?

Nunca sei como é que se pode achar um poente triste.

Só se é por um poente não ser uma madrugada.

Mas se ele é um poente, como é que ele havia de ser uma madrugada? [1]

-Epiphany, said Nim

-Epiphany? But what "hidden truth" would unveil a persona-poet such as Caeiro for whom the true meaning of things was that they had no meaning at all.

-The truth that we once knew when we were also simpler and knew things for what they were. Before we spent years after years in schools with brazen reputations to learn that the same things are not what we knew them to be.

And thus we beset meanings borrowed from some culture we fancied on the simple beauty of a sunset and burden it with a melancholic sense that had never belonged to the sunset itself. It is common place when an educated person reads "sunset" and thinks " end" or "death" when a sunset is neither an end , nor death.

- And just because we do expect the sunrise to follow each sunset, it does not mean that each end has a new beginning...

What does a poem do but voice something that cannot be put in the ordinary language without seeming deceitful or clumsy at best.

...then I was about to make a note about recent events and how we thrive through conflict and negation and war. Perhaps it is an old habit, we were victors only after we won some battle so we can only be victors as we win a battle. But I realized it sounded presumptuous. So I decided for a quote from Cavafy instead:

"Now what's going to happen to us without the barbarians?

Those people were a kind of solution" [2]


[1] Alberto Caeiro. from Jornal de Poesia

translation (mine) :

I never knew why would one think that a sunset is sad.

Unless this happened because a sunset is not a sunrise.

But if it is a sunset, how could it possibly be a sunrise?

[2] Constantine Cavafy. from "Waiting for the barbarians" translation by Edmund Keely and Philip Sherard.


I owe the acquaintance with Caeiro's poem and the motif beyond this post to Vlad's post "Zen and Alberto Caeiro"


artpredator said...

you're brave to engage this deep philosophical question! I enjoyed your ruminative post!

Ana said...


I appreciate that you took the time to read it.
Anaïs who did it – and she is much younger. She is at that age when most of us do have the courage and passion required for becoming engaged in philosophical discussions.