15 February 2010

Toward a Definition of Poetry

Poetry is knowledge, salvation, power, abandonment. An operation capable of changing the world, poetic activity is revolution by nature; a spiritual exercise, it is a means of interior liberation. Poetry reveals this world; it creates another. Bread of the chosen; accursed food. It isolates; it unites. Invitation to the journey; return to the homeland. Inspiration, respiration, muscular exercise. Prayer to the void, dialogue with absence; tedium, anguish, and despair nourish it. Prayer, litany, epiphany, presence. Exorcism, conjuration, magic. Sublimation, compensation, condensation of the unconscious. Historic expression of races, nations, classes. It denies history: at its core all objective conflicts are resolved and man at last acquires consciousness of being something more than a transient. Experience, feeling, emotion, intuition, undirected thought. Result of chance; fruit of calculation. Art of speaking in a superior way; primitive language. Obedience to the rules; creation of others. Imitation of the ancients, copy of the real, copy of a copy of the Idea. Madness, ecstasy, logos. Return to childhood, coitus, nostalgia for paradise, for hell, for limbo. Play, work, ascetic activity. Confession. Innate experience. Vision, music, symbol.

--Octavio Paz, The Bow and the Lyre

02 February 2010

Poetry & Transformation

As a linguistic unit, the poem is unique in its movement toward being something else. Whether the poem be narrative or lyrical (or even visual), it points toward something else—an experience, a memory, or a problem. Even a poem that interrogates language points elsewhere. The rub, however, is that in this metaphorical quality of transformation, the poem remains essentially itself. T.S. Eliot may lead us down the backstreets of London, but “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” remains exactly what it is—a poem, a linguistic unit. As Yusef Komunyakaa has observed, a poem is a metaphor for itself. It transforms and shifts; but it remains a poem just the same. And in this paradox lies the very nature of poetry—by changing, the poem becomes itself. A poem can move beyond its subject matter and address large, sometimes universal concerns. At the same time, the poem remains the words on the page, filtered (of course) through a reader’s perceptions. The crux is that the poem is both at the same time.

05 January 2010

Spring Cleaning

Muse of Fire is closed indefinitely.

I'm currently working on my website (http://www.jeffnewberry.com), and I hope to include some kind of blogging software on that site when I finish designing it. I may keep this blog up and running, and I may delete it. I've not decided just yet

Thanks for stopping by, and please don't hesitate to contact me at jeff [DOT] newberry [AT] gmail.com.