I’m always trying to explain to people ‘why poetry?’ But today I found a poem that says it far better than I can, and by one of my favourite poets ~ Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
One of the fathers of the Beat Poetry movement, Ferlinghetti is better known for founding City Lights publishing company, which has published such greats as Ginsberg, Kerouac, Bukowski, Chomsky, and many more. All of which is very cool.
But Ferlinghetti’s own poetry is wonderful. I’ve always loved his work, and today’s poem is the best explanation of why I write poetry. No small dream, poetry: I want to save the world. I’m no Whitman, no Dickinson, no name of large renown. Only a believer in the magic space between poet & reader. Here’s Ferlinghetti, w/ his own, more articulate, explanation:
I am signaling you through the flames.
The North Pole is not where it used to be.
Manifest Destiny is no longer manifest.
Nemesis is knocking at the door.
What are poets for, in such an age?
What is the use of poetry?
The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.
If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic.
You are Whitman, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain, you are Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, you are Neruda and Mayakovsky and Pasolini, you are an American or a non-American, you can conquer the conquerors with words….
From Poetry as Insurgent Art by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. New Directions.