A proposition: Poetry is the art that dare not speak its name. Consider. You’re at a dinner party. You fall into conversation with your neighbour whilst awaiting the last course. You get respective jobs out of the way. You dispose of family, homestead, favoured make of car & how crap the prevailing government is. You ask what s/he does for recreation, for the cultivation of mind, heart & soul. S/he says, ‘Actually, I paint/sculpt/work in ceramics/play the violin’. Oh, interesting: clearly a creative spark within. Not just a doctor/carpet-layer/bank clerk/high court judge – an artist too. A free spirit – focussed, but a touch raffish with it. You’d be happy to run an eye over the etchings or turn the page during a canter through the Bach sonatas…If you’re a poet, or someone who knows a poet or two and cares about them, you know very well that this picture is true. But it’s Jones’s discussion of why this is so that moved me to order his book. (That and reading a few of his poems online.) Maybe you’l feel the same….
But what if s/he says: ‘Actually, I write poetry’? The heart will skip a beat. What if s/he reaches into jacket pocket & produces a slim volume? ‘And I’ve got some with me. Would you like to hear them?’ Somehow a sort of protocol would have been breached. It would be as if some very slightly indelicate note has entered the conversation: as if s/he has suddenly alluded to a troubling personal problem or declared that Jesus has recently entered his/her heart. You would have been provided with a morsel of information that you’d rather be without & the polite tennis match would be at an end.
But why? What is it about such a declaration that would distance it so very much from a stated allegiance to any of the other arts?
The Art that Dare Not Speak Its Name
I hadn’t heard of British poet Dick Jones until Jim Murdoch mentioned him on his blog. Now I’ve ordered Jones’s Ancient Days: Selected Poems, just when my bank account says I shouldn’t be ordering anything. You might experience the same thing if you read this post on Dick Jones’s blog, which Murdoch quoted on his. Here’s a taste: