Poetry Day and after

Today’s World Poetry Day ignores two basic facts: first, that poetry is mainly a nocturnal affair, a clash between inner and outer darkness that aims to conquer or spell out that darkness. Second, poetry must be an ongoing and everyday expression or not at all. To paraphrase the words of Greek surrealist poet Andreas Embiricos, «poetry will be spermatic/ utterly erotic/ or it won’t exist.» His definition is not the only one. To serve poetry is to attempt the impossible: Poets try to compress their thoughts into a few words, depending on (a) how they understand it (as a mission assigned by the muses, a witchcraft of questionable effectiveness, or a way to ostracize death), and (b) whether they choose to confine it to the private sphere or aspire to bring it out into the public domain, however utopian this might be. There is no consensus among poets. In fact, poets often change the way they see poetry as initial enthusiasm, driven by the conviction that words and prosody can reshape the world, being gradually encroached on by disillusionment and silence. The public sphere, however, with the exception of national celebrations, does not seem to be occupied by, or at least substantially influenced by, poetry. Maybe that explains the increasing criticism leveled at poetry for failing to topple oppressive regimes or reigning consciences. If good poetry is written and rewritten on the page margin, then generally poetry can be said to be written on the world’s margin – not its heart. It is a private affair not a social one – and that’s not because of some aristocratic elitism. And yet this comforting art form gets vindicated and goes on to celebrate its endurance each time, for whatever reason, it gains even one more adherent.