Poetry is not part of most people's lives on an every day basis. I do not consider myself a poet but I write poetry -- that's because I take writing very seriously and believe it is, first an art and then a profession and, lastly, something almost anyone can enjoy and dabble in. I dabble, by my own definition.
I was shocked in a conversation yesterday when someone who often asks me to offer an opinion about his poetry told me he never reads fiction because it's merely escapism. Yes, he thinks he writes poetry although he has never read a book about poetics. What a strange relationship he has with poetry! He does not read books of poetry but not only takes pleasure in producing his "poems" but annually prints them up into a little chapbook of his own making to share with friends and family. How strange people are! Poetry has some power that neither nonfiction prose nor fiction has. Most people have a favorite poem or a line or two of poetry that resonates in their lives, the word "magical" is almost appropriate.
Years ago someone mentioned Rilke in a conversation. I had read a little of Rilke and didn't quite understand him. So the friend gave me the following poem without giving me it's title. I've returned to it often because I find resonance in various lines at various times. To me that is part of the definition of good poetry, something that offers information about life and the world in a way--with words arranged skillfully--that offers insight again and again and never becomes trite.
You see, I want a l lot,
Perhaps I want everything:
The darkness that comes with every infinite fall
And the shivering blaze of every step up.
So many live on and want nothing,
And are raised to the rank of prince
By the slippery ease of their light judgements.
But what you love to see are the faces
That do work and feel thirst.
You love most of all those who need you
As they need a crowbar or a hoe.
You have not grown old, and it is not too late
To dive into your increasing depths
Where life calmly gives out its own secret.
The mid-70s are a surprise! Part of me remains in the 50s -- age, I mean, not decade of 20th century. It's a joy ride, new experiences land in my lap and I've become a better quilter, poet, writer than I expected. It's a rich life for a person never rich financially. Hey, this is what the mid-70s are like!