Friday, May 31, 2019

The Poetry Lover

I have read your poems with my door locked late at night and I have read them on the seashore where I could look all round me and see no more sign of human life than the ships out at sea: and here I often found myself waking up from a reverie with the book open before me. I love all poetry, and high generous thoughts make the tears rush to my eyes, but sometimes a word or a phrase of yours takes me away from the world around me and places me in an ideal land surrounded by realities more than any poem I ever read.

— Bram Stoker, from a letter to Walt Whitman; Feb. 8, 1872.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

Maybe I'm an uncultured heathen, but I find most English language poetry to be either stupefyingly dull or maddeningly pretentious - or occasionally both.

I've tried several times to grok the appeal of the "great" historical poets, but always failed, and I think a big part of it is that I can't relate to a lot of it. Certain kinds of English poetry actually manage to resonate with me, such as poems from the trenches of World War I. But works by the likes of Keats, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Byron, Blake, Shelley, etc? They just seem so... banal? Trite, maybe?

I have a nagging suspicion that it's something to do with my very modern perspective and worldview, similar to how I find H. P. Lovecraft's works to be laughably quaint and not remotely terrifying. In his age, the idea of the universe being ineffable and ultimately beyond human comprehension shook men like him to their very cores. But to me, looking into the infinite expanse of the cosmos is inspiring and even comforting. I do not fear the unknown - rather I embrace it. Goodness knows it's actually far less terrifying than many known truths of the universe.

I find I do have some measure of success with the foreign poems, for whatever reason. Maybe it's something to do with translated works relying more on concepts that transcend language barriers.

Or maybe it has to with the different cultures that spawn such works - I think perhaps I have just a stronger affinity for, say, the culture of Rumi's 13th century Persia, than I do for the culture of 18th and 19th century British high society.