What do we need to understand about poetry? — this thing many try to write or recite? Maybe how it gets created? With all the arts, for each art, whether visual, literary, auditory or kinesthetic, there is first a craft — of which the artist or writer needs to learn as much as possible, along with its history and varieties. Second, after craft, there is a mysterious calling from within, which makes itself known to us, delivering in each case as much as the craft-skilled worker can handle of it, or channel effectively. This is what raises craft-work to artistry.
Our practice takes place between things we are conscious of and things of which we are wholly unconscious within or around ourselves, or perhaps only subliminally aware of, as “inklings.” The formative integration of poems, whether sudden or long delayed, as if deployed incrementally over time, accompanies a correlative process of self-integration — the discovery and fusion of mental and emotional factors called thoughts, images and feelings. These distinctions are largely verbal, belonging more to dictionaries than to — “reality.”
The results are delivered in speech forms, conceived, spoken and written. The self-integrating aspect of our work at best contributes to, and finally accomplishes, a singular and self-consistent conceptuality or mind revealed in every perception and expression eventually with full command of language issuing from a transcendental singularity, the mysterious source/process that creates a work destructive only to ignorant ineptitude.
Hopefully, such works have tonic or catalytic effect on the reader, aiding integration. Talking about the “functions” of poetry will only lead us into swamps and deserts of the obvious mechanisms. Mere functions do not necessarily fulfill good purposes and complete themselves. Machinery can be taken apart only after it’s made to exist. Even an imaged machine cannot likely be conceived without developmental experiment, much trial and error. Still less so a poem that will work like a magic lozenge to cure subtle ills, the ills amounting to, or stemming from, conceptual disconnection and circuitry never before linked.
Hence, diligent reading of literary criticism or analyses of poems, though useful, can never suffice, let alone supplant the poet’s engagement in work. It will not do to cry about “writer’s block.” The only blockage is inactivity. Outward effort applied regularly or sporadically with interspersed moments of meditation, searching contemplation and study grows an extra-conscious, invisible process within the poet that feeds conscious activity and external behavior, which in turn are fed back to the unconscious. The nervous system is like a servo-mechanism. Place demand on it, it will likely give back a result. Ask memory for an item of fact not at once recalled, it may be provided in its own good time which no conscious effort will hasten.
Sadly, there may be in some readers and hearers of poetry a factor of resistance to integrative effects of a powerful poem. Not every medication benefits every patient, especially when suffering is unconscious. Readiness to receive varies from person to person and crowd to crowd, yet the poet’s aim stays universal, though artists understand that not every work can lift or appeal to everyone who views or reads it.
If, through personal integration one taps the transcendental singularity, the resulting works should transmit and spread structural order through audiences ultimately to improve cohesion in society, personal integration, service to the biosphere, and public integrity. This is the goal and highest potential of art, to facilitate betterment of the world in which it, and we, happen, and to accomplish it by aesthetic means rather than by political manipulation or financial transaction. Mere self-expression alone is never enough. One must encompass that which impresses others. One must channel something universal or encompassing, and try to transmit the results in a unique blend of elevated form and sociable informality. It may bloom in a flash like a flower or take years of revision, self-construction and reconstruction to produce an organic agent that thrusts growth upon the world.
Out of the initial singularity, the primal cosmos. Out of transcendental fusion, the singular exfoliation of magic lozenges.