Poetry is the Unknown Guest in the House
 – according to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, in Poetry as Insurgent Art

“Stash your sell-phone” 

20180101_121700569138754.jpgIn 2017 I used an app to delete all my contacts from my Facebook account, and decided to begin blogging again. I was concerned about what social media was doing to my reading comprehension, about what it was doing to my psyche.

I have read somewhere that we humans sort the world into discrete categories as best we can, so that we can make quick (and life-saving) decisions: a creature in the shadows whose breathing is audible, whose breath smells like copper is a Predator.

(It could be a deer, but better safe than sorry in the moment.)

It seems to me that this kind of quick judgement is the norm in a social media jungle. The immediacy. The rush. People (myself included) read a headline, write a quick opinion, and move on. It began to feel more like a cut-throat game of tag than a conversation.

Am I alone in feeling as though I’ve been continually on red alert? Watching, and defending myself against threats? Trolls. People whose politics differ from mine. The 10 things I am doing wrong in regard to my toaster oven – or my pentameter.

I was thinking about The Giver last night. And Brave New World. And wondering if anyone out there has written a dystopic novel in which the People in Power had managed to invent a kind of drug that entailed no manufacturing expenses, no distribution expenses, and one which the masses self-administered – eagerly – making people’s very minds bio-billboards for products (and non-products) for sale. One-click purchases for the dopamine junkies.

Possible titles? Likes. Or Attention Economy.

I feel as though I have fallen into a post-Absurdist rabbit hole of inclusion addiction.  The thought of being irrelevant and untethered in this international, intercultural, intergenerational buzz of avatars is terrifying.

“Great poets are the antennae of the race, with more than rabbit ears.” (L.F.)

What is it to be a poet in this world? International, intercultural, intergenerational. Virtual.

My social-media life was the opposite of poetry. Since 2016, I’ve experienced it as divisive. I am tired of labels.  Even the silly ones. What kind of pizza are you? Which French philosopher? I understand that categories are useful. Scientists find use in them. But poets shouldn’t. Poets are occupied with the truth. And the truth is always a platypus.

I crave the deep work. The work of sincere attention necessary for poetry. I want to close my eyes and rediscover my senses. I want to fight against the stenciled concepts I’ve adopted.

I was surprised, and pleased to see Donna Vorreyer’s tweet about a poetry blog revival last week.

“Poetry assuages our absolute loneliness in the lonely universe.” (L.F.)

I feel less alone in my longings, though still anxious. How can I participate in a poetry community in a healthy way?

Gertrude Stein said she wrote for strangers and herself. Last year I wrote open letters to specific people, as an attempt to ground myself in virtual relationships. This year, I will write open letters on the subject of poetry – to myself.  I will be working on my relationship with poetry.

“A poem is still a knock on the door of the unknown.” (L.F.) 

They say if a writer has a website or blog, we are obligated to consider that the reader is asking themselves, “What’s in it for me?”

If you have read this far, then I suppose you are the stranger to whom I’m writing: the unknown guest. I don’t know what’s in it for you. Maybe if a word here somehow opens a door to your own deep work, we are a poetry community in this immediate virtual space.

And maybe you will write back to this stranger, and show me a bit of your unknown?

Poetry is not a “product”, it is an elementary particle. […] The poet pieces the wild beast together. (L.F.)

Thank you for reading. 

(p.s. The poetry blog revival blogs can be reached via the links page.)