A BRIEF ESSAY ABOUT POETRY BY TODD SWIFT
*Note - since initially posting this the other day, I have seen a few comments that annoy me, because they fall into that non-empirical, wishy-washy, and vaguely passive-aggressive form of falsely humble mumbo-jumbo some poets use, in order to somehow cope with the utterly horrifying truth that most of what they write, however beautiful or accomplished, will be ignored by almost everyone in their community.
The main nuisance is the idea that "I only write poems for myself and a few people anyway".
The point of my essay was to partly highlight the strangeness of this. What pianist, or priest, or surgeon, or dancer, or painter, or playwright, or teacher, only wants to play music for themselves, or operate on their self, or say Mass for themselves?
It is true that it can be satisfying to compose a poem - and that even one reader is better than none.
But poems can be so beautifully, carefully hard-won, after thousands of hours of reading and thinking and preparation (even a lifetime), that to genuinely claim they are ok just seen by one other person, is a very odd way of thinking about them as an art form.
Poetry was public, and meant for a public, and poems that fail to be memorably loved or cherished, have in some ways fallen on barren soil. Poems are intended to spark debate, and reaction, feeling, and reflection - they are eloquence - a speaking out, and to.
To pretend it is okay to just sing arias in a shower is to miss the point.