Is poetry personal, intimate, or universal?

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Doreen Peri
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Is poetry personal, intimate, or universal?

Post by Doreen Peri » May 20th, 2005, 11:54 pm

Poetry is intimate, but it's also universal. That's the purpose of it. To speak something someone else can identify with.

I often find poetry I didn't remember writing. But it's still mine. I wrote it. But it's way cool to discover words you put down on paper (or in a file on your computer) which you don't recall and then read it and find out it speaks to you as if another person is speaking to you and you connect with it.

If a person writes a poem about a personal experience, the images and descriptive phrases may be intimate in that the writer identifies with the exact experience. However, the *audience* ... the reader... or hearer... wasn't there and doesn't know your experience. It COULD be fiction. It doesn't matter.

What matters is that it speaks in a universal fashion which connects people to the act of being human itself. We all have one thing in common. We're human. Pretty simple, really. But if you can say something in a unique manner to connect to the universality of the human condition, it's no longer personal.... it's extremely personal but NOT... it, instead, becomes a connection with humanity.

In other words...for example.... let's say my cat or dog died today... a pet who had been in my family for years and years. A member of my family. And the fact that my pet died inspired me to write about the experience of losing a family member, losing a part of my life. Instead of saying, "My cat died today. He was part of my family for 12 years," a poet might say, "Death is an animal no longer breathing; death leaves me wanting to caress a purring feline/ Formerly my friend, my heart, my hope/ Death eliminates companionship".... or something like that. No great poetry, but I think you get my point which is that the more universal an image is, the more other people can connect to it, the less naked you feel sharing it, though naked is a great image, too, because we all know what that feels like to let our skin be exposed to the elements, to feel how cool sheets embrace warm legs longing for anothers legs to wrap around. Whether the situation you speak of is personal or not, it's not too intimate to share, in that every human being has felt this way. That's the connection.

The reader... the audience... doesn't look into YOUR life... he or she looks into his or her life... that's the connection. Vague. Descript. Love. Death. Wholeness. Separation. The seeking of truths. All of it is US. If you can say it uniquely with an honest voice, which, in my opinion really only comes from personal experience, the reader, the audience, hears their OWN life in the piece. You connect to them because you speak for them. They connect to you because they see themselves in your words. Poetry is an intimate communication, yes, but it's moreso a universal connectivity. No reader is going to care where you came up with the images you used. A reader (your audience) will only care that he or she can see their lives inside your images and voice.

Performing your poetry in public, whether it be by posting it on the internet or reciting it at a live venue, is opening your heart up to be naked..... and this takes bravery in the sense that you have to welcome criticism and identification... because people WILL react. But they are only reacting because you are presenting them with a mirror. If you do it right.... you are a mirror. It's not about YOU.... it's about THEM.

What do you think? Do you agree?

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Post by e_dog » May 21st, 2005, 8:40 am

What matters is that it speaks in a universal fashion which connects people to the act of being human itself.
comes from personal experience, the reader, the audience, hears their OWN life in the piece. You connect to them because you speak for them.
this is well written and very interesting, doreen, and i think you have have really captured one of the most important modalities of literature -- identification with others. (but is there also not an experience of engaging with the totally new, something which makes one feel in contact with something - a story an idea a feeling -- that they cannot seem to relate to?)
I don't think 'Therefore, I am.' Therefore, I am.

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Post by mousey1 » May 21st, 2005, 8:21 pm

For sure it's all of the above Doreen. Nicely writ.

When something beautifully written expresses an element of what I'm feeling or have felt there is nothing quite so moving, so touching. There is comfort in it. Aha, someone else felt this way and was able to describe it so effectively that I recognized it.

Poetry has something for us all if we give it the time of day. I bet everyone is or has been a closet poet at some time....even if but the limerick variety. There is something so visceral about poetry.

It certainly is healing. We know it is unhealthy to dwell and obsess about things, but there is something about working and reworking these thoughts, transforming them if you will, into a workable piece that can turn your whole perspective of things around or at least let you view them in a fresh new light and more often then not bring a positive out of what was once perhaps a negative. Like....well, yes, my heart's broken in a million pieces but look at the poem I got out of this.....who got the best of the deal now!!!!!.....that sort of thing. They look in the mirror that you created and see their own shattered image looking back...who da fuck wouldn't be moved. :D

edog....
(but is there also not an experience of engaging with the totally new, something which makes one feel in contact with something - a story an idea a feeling -- that they cannot seem to relate to?)
I wonder. I'm trying to think of examples where this might happen. Being so totally outside of the situation that you could not possibly ever see anything familiar and yet still get something of value out of it. I'm not sure. I know there are times when I've read something that I couldn't comprehend and yet it was so beautifully written and worded that I enjoyed the visuals of it none the less. Certainly paintings and photographs that strike one on first viewing as, quite frankly a waste of materials, can make you think differently than perhaps you're used to. The problem as I see it though is giving something you can't relate to the time and attention that it would take to actually make some sort of connection. And then again it seems you have to make a connection in order for anything to really grab you. It appears that our minds are going to take over the situation and turn anything we read or view into something familiar that we can relate to. My mind is grabbing me right now and telling me to write this so someone can actually understand what I'm saying....all important that!

Anyway, I would like some examples of what you mean edog. I'm leaning towards thinking that we can't truly be made to feel in contact with something if we can't relate to it on some level. We are always going to bring our personalities and experiences to bare.

I've never read "Finnegan's Wake" but I've heard it's a difficult read, that it is hard to comprehend and yet there are those who think it's a masterpiece. Again, having not read it, I dunno....how can you slog through something unfathomable, unrelateable unless you make it so.

Maybe I don't know what you're talking about. :)

Anyway, I'm probably in over my head glug glug but I'm kinda piqued by what you're getting at so bring on a zample or two if you please if you got 'em. :roll: Or was it just food for thought you were throwing out there? If so I certainly had a nice meal. :)
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Post by Maple Leaf Up » June 2nd, 2005, 9:29 pm

As edog hinted, one may argue that identity is the central theme to all literature, regardless of the genre (perhaps, all forms of artistic expression have identity as their central theme). Identity is a basic need we seek to satisfy once we have secured water, food, shelter and sex.

Subsequently, literature, in all its magical forms, addresses our basic need to understand ourselves and others.

P.S. edog, I intend to address the points you & Trevor raised in the thread regarding art and morality; simply, haven't made it a priority of late. A la prochaine fois.
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Post by e_dog » June 6th, 2005, 11:18 pm

to pick up on doreen's original theme and post,

poetry reaches toward the universal through the personal. (whereas novels make-personal the universal.)

Maple Leaf speaks of Identity as the theme of literary themes. but i wonder whether identity and self-esteem and relating to others are not different things. or maybe they are indeed aspects of the same phenomenon?

Soocial recognition of some sort is perhaps a basic need, but is this identity? Identity suggests the one true self which exists within. it also suggests the social progress of identification, a standardizing by the political machine.

consider this relevant line from Antonio Gramsci's prison notebooks: (roughly translated from Italian)

What you really are is a struggle to become who you want to be.
I don't think 'Therefore, I am.' Therefore, I am.

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