“What is poetry for in today’s time?” This question is no less valid because it’s asked in a challenging wayby many stupid people or because it’s answered apologetically by so many simpletons.
These lines bothered me for years now. I have always considered poetry as a nice accessory to literature and preferred to spend my time with thick tomes such as “War and Peace”.
Nevertheless, I always heard a low voice insisting that there is a secret to poetry I don’t know about yet. And that’s why I started to ask myself a few questions.
What is the difference between lyrical texts and other means of transmission? Why do poems touchour souls, and what lines do? And if we need poems, of which I am now convinced, why do we need them and what are they for us?
One thing everyone notices is the great change our language is going through.
Of course, language is constantly changing and adapting to people’s new living environment. But today it’s not just about that. It’s rather about a dramatic deterioration of our language.
Many people consider this “Cassandra’s clamors”. In their eyes, the language changes, but they believe that this is the same kind of development as we have known for more than 2000 years.
But they are mistaken, because they confuse the quantity of the used words with the inherent quality of words.
They always refer to the use of the language for things on the surface only, words used for the understanding of technical processes or the dissemination of information.
And in terms of these aspects, it may even be true that this is a normal change and that the language adapts to a new environment.
But communication is a lot more than that. One more important question is how our language manages to transmit abstract thoughts and to express inner processes.
To what extent it is possible to create new spaces for thoughts, to discover new ways of thinking and feelings, and to discover a new view of ourselves as human beings in this worldthrough language.
And from this point of view we are facing a worrying development.
Language is always a reflection of its time. In our world, the most important things seem to be money, power and technology, and therefore our language inevitably evolves into this direction to cope with this world view.
But through this reduced world view, we cut our language from its most important task:our possibility to express the most primal human problems such as love or loneliness in a productive way.
By this, something Cornelia Jentzsch once said might happen: “When I started thinking about life, I could not find the right words for it.”
And that’s the point. If we lose these words, if we lose a nuanced language, then we will not be able to think about a world outside of visible reality anymore.
This development was triggered by the loss of our book culture and its replacement by modern mass media.
I have already written more about it here, so in the following I will only show how three different media each allow or prevent their own access to differentiated thoughts and feelings.
A film is a medium primarily working with moving images. Text can be important, too, but always remains secondary.
One of the biggest problems of this medium is that movies only have a limited time to reach people. Therefore, feelings and thoughts must be immediately recognized and understood by the audience, leading to a rather simplistic and superficial presentation.
Prose can be used a lot better to portray feelings and to make them fruitful for his life. (read more)
This type of text focuses on an action with embedded feelings and thoughts. Therefore, this medium is the best one to relate these two to each other, to transform them into language and to give us the opportunity to integrate them into our lives.
But by being dependent on a story, these texts rarely reach the point where they need to go beyond the spoken word.
And at this point I finally understood the meaning of poems.
Poems take one step further by reaching spheres that can be guessed but not put into words, yet they are real and of great importance to our humanity.
A good poem has an “inner beauty”. It has the power to free our minds and connect them with another world for the brink of a moment.
Poems are able to let you have a glimpse of what lays in between words and lets you see what the languageitself can no longer express.
They can also address subtle nuances and, more importantly, presage things that can’t be spoken out loud, but only be felt.
Poems relate things to each other that seemingly have nothing to do with each other, yet they do for just one moment.
That is the reason why they sometimes seem illogical – they seem to drift off, to repeat themselves and to be elusive. But that is more than just a narcissism of the poet. It serves the special purpose of pulling us out of our time and to let us grow beyond ourselves.
As a result, poems give a voice to our inner part. They get to the limit of what can be said in words and sometimes beyond.
And this is exactly why they can serve as a shield against the continuous exposure to entertainment, and the thoughts and opinions of others. Not to escape reality, but to preserve a place of humanity within us, a place of silence and imagination for inspiration and love to grow.