On Hope and Poetry

Finally sun here in the Midwest – real sun, hot sun – and a slight breeze that made for perfect outside reading weather. My choice for the day was to begin The Redress of Poetry, a book of lectures by the late Seamus Heaney. Since this is a signed copy (a lovely Mother’s Day gift from my husband), I was taking notes as I read.

Although I only read the introduction today, there was much to consider. Heaney spoke of what he called the frontier of writing,

“a line that divides the actual conditions of our daily lives from the imaginative representation of those conditions in literature and divides also the world of poetic language.”

In this respect, each poet is a pioneer of sorts – I like the idea of blazing a new trail every time I write a poem.

Another idea that made me smile, since I rarely draft from any sort of intellectual part of my brain:

“drafting should move from delight to wisdom and never the other way,” that a poem should begin with some “felicity of a cadence, chain reaction of rhyme, or pleasure of any etymology…”

But one of my favorite discoveries from this introductory essay was a quote from Våclav Havel about hope. Heaney shares this quote as a parallel definition of poetry:

“…a state of mind, not a state of the world. Either we have hope within us or we don’t; it is a dimension of the soul, and it’s not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of a situation…it transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons.”

Something to write for. Something to hope for.

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