Thursday, July 29, 2004

bam smash

Personally, I have a deeply-ingrained suspicion of poetry. Or to be more precise, of people who call themselves poets, especially those who write in free verse without having gone through the classic forms (this is an ancient bias of mine, enveloping other writing disciplines as well, so don't think I'm dissing any one particular poet at this moment).

The truth is that anyone with a decent command of language can write a poem. Or fake one and hide behind artistic license. I've seen many examples of utterly banal "poetry" by various people who think they're poets (or to be fair, maybe they're just bad poets).

Even I, from time to time, can string together some words and phrases, and because I am some other sort of writer, I am aware of things like theme, mood, voice and style and so on. But I am not a poet, not like my contemporaries Bliss Lim, Eric Evano or Ruey de Vera are, much less any of the poets whose poems belong to the world.

I disagree with the argument that everyone can be a poet. I think poets are rare individuals who are able to distill their experience of the world, all the beauty and horror, the drab and the humdrum, into words that make you laugh or cry or think. This peculiar ability is precious and not at all commonplace. The ability to use the poem's manifold instances to bridge people together cannot be found just anywhere. Sometimes, they are obscure - but just because they are inaccessible to you does not invalidate their work.

I enjoy poetry and wish more people would too. But I'd encourage a wider range of true voices that drip with truth and longing or unbridled wonder (no matter how many or how few), rather than invite the entire population to contribute their brutal cacophony. Not everyone is a poet, I'm sorry. Not everyone can draw, or sculpt, or write a play. Art is neither democratic nor fair.

Is poetry for everyone? That's like asking if ballet is for everyone. Or drama. Or whatever art form. Appreciation, respect and love for a particular art form, any form, cannot be forced or institutionalized.

People are free to find what moves them, what transports them beyond their everyday lives, what resonates with their humanity.

Or not.


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