Before you read this poem, I think you should read Czeslaw Milosz’ Ars Poetica?, given that I drew inspiration directly from it and consciously mirrored its format to minor details. His Ars Poetica? with its significant question mark was a deliberation on (literally translated) the art or nature of poetry. I decided to write a counterpart, also with a titular question mark, about the nature of the poet.
The Nature of the Poet?
I have always aspired to a more flexible description
that would be free from the labels of poet or artist
and would allow the world to understand us as people without assuming
we are by nature more confounding than it.
In the very nature of poets, there is something incomprehensible:
we discover ourselves to be people we didn’t think we were
so we read our own words like they were written by a stranger
who has so erroneously attempted to put our own thoughts to words.
This is why the perception of a poet is said to be governed by an entirely Other force:
our senses perceive the world as poetry, as it already is –
and while others would deign to call us creators,
to ourselves, we are merely observers; introspective anthropologists.
What kind of reasonable person would gladly suffer through the seizure of inspiration
which causes one to halt all daily activities no matter at which point,
and deny one rest until the cursed words were finally written,
to produce an end result which no one but its author truly understands?
It’s true that the tortured artist is highly romanticized today,
and so you may think I am performing an act in futility
by attempting, with irony, to explain the rationality
of those who cannot be explained.
On our part, it causes us to wonder, somewhat blasphemously, whether God,
in His determination to make us such unique and individual beings,
declined to consider that no soul would ever comprehend us to the point of total empathy-
thereby confining us to self-puzzling solitude.
And yet, somehow, the poetry of others means more to us than it should;
those strange moments when words double as mirrors –
occasionally frozen into final portraits of ourselves and serving as reminders that
somewhere on the planet, at some point in time, someone who never knew us understood us.
The purpose of being poets is to remind the world
how impossible it is for our words to be applicable only to one person;
for we strengthen the interconnectedness of humankind
and generations of people see themselves through our fabrications at unpredictable times.
I am not, I agree, a poet,
as every word out of a poet’s pen leaks with fabulous elegance and music.
As we deny but consistently conform to the world’s stereotypes of our kind,
we can only hope that the good traits and not the destructive ones follow us to our graves.