It is daunting when bad fortune comes in waves, drowning us in debt, suffering, disabling illness, financial reversals, and so many more things I have been through this last year personally, so that we want to lie down and never get up.
But, I am not dead yet… and there is poetry to be lived.
I say that as one of the world’s fifty worst poets who ever lived. (In my defense, I am a humorist, and I write bad poetry on purpose.) My inspiration for the living of poetry comes from reading and living good poetry. I live because there is poetry by Walt Whitman. Of course, also Shakespeare… whoever he really was. And I understand that much of what I have learned in my brief and stupidly-lived 61 years comes from the poetry of the visionary poet I pictured above. Do you know him? If you have never read his poetry, you haven’t truly lived the poetry you need to live.
This poet taught me that “Being, not doing, is my first love.” Of course, if I am satisfied with just sitting on my bed and “being” through most of my day, I will starve to death and not “be” anymore. But he has taught me that what is essential is already within me. There is wisdom and power in Uncle Ted’s poetry. (Yes, I know I am not really related to him, but that’s only physical and overlooks the spiritual.) I must partake of it to live.
If you are bored by poetry about plants in a greenhouse under bright lights, or you can never understand what the poet means when he says, “My father was a fish”, then you need to practice reading poetry more. You don’t truly understand what poetry is, and what it is for… yet.
And I am sure you have probably concluded from all of this that I am a fool and a bad poet and I have no right to try to tell you who and what a truly great poet is. But, fool that I am, I know it when I see it. It is there in the verse, the hideous and horrible… the beautiful and the true. And if I know anything at all worth telling about the subject, it is this; Ted Roethke is a great American poet. And he writes poetry that you need to read… and not only read but live.