The Poet in All of Us

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Perhaps it slipped by most of you, but May was designated as “National Poetry Month”, and as a Regional Ambassador for the event I did not do such a superlative job of getting this word to our community.

For that I apologize because poetry has been one of my favorite pastimes my entire life.

This makes me reflect on the importance of poetry in such a complex society as we have today.

Email newsletter signup

And, as you are well aware, there are very few apologists for poetry, particularly amongst the testosterone bunch like myself.

Most “men” see poetry as some sort of compromise of the genetic course on which we have been set by Nature and Nature’s God.

It’s just plain not “manly” enough to get our attention, or so we think.

Add to this, that poetry only comes to the fore when all other necessities of life have been sated, or at least assuaged.

Much like philosophy, poetry will emerge from a society when all other endeavors to establish some sort of security have been satisfied.

I think of the current HBO series “Deadwood” and use it as a point of my message.

Those folks are too busy settling to take time for some rather effete rhymester (if that is not a word, I just coined it and want all royalties associated with such coinage).

He might just plain be a “sissy” and no one in Deadwood wants to be one of those, even if he has been to Brokeback Mountain.

No, the poet has not occupied much of a vaulted position in most societies, that is, until those societies have reached a certain level of stability with respect to their politics, their economies, and their collective societal directions – or when those poets have been favorite ornaments of the reigning power.

Then, too, poetry has been in vogue when the potentate of the society fancies poetry, as in the case of the “Song of Solomon.”

Nobody would want to dispute the beauty of Solomon’s images and erotic references in that treasured piece of literature.

The irony of associating flowing language to express a view of the world or to effuse some emotive locution which actually allows the poet and the audience, whoever it may be, to mutually share in the interpretation and the feeling is that it is a natural human element.

And it begins with song.

Now, in that perspective poetry takes on a new veil and allows each of us the nuance of expression which is uniquely us – and that is exactly the point of poetry.

When I taught English Literature many moons ago, I took special care to point out the masculine nature of such poets as Byron, Keats, and Shelly, but did not over look the likes of Shakespeare and Marlowe.

Poetry allows each of us to, in the words I used to introduce a collection of my poems, “paint pictures with words.”

A poem must “show” the subject, topic, emotion, event, and not “tell” it.

And because of the special nature each of us possesses it is the poet in each of us that makes our world more interesting, even more divine.

The sanctity of the individual soul produces a singularly unique lens through which each of us can share a new light with the other souls – and that is the essence of poetry.

It is simple. It is brief.

It is penetrating. It is concise.

And it allows us a glimpse of the Eternal through the eyes of us mere mortals.

More importantly, it is within every one of us.

By way of explanation, let me share a short poem with you, entitled “What It Is”.

Perhaps the final truth

is but

inward limitations and

outward expectations –

of unanswerable queries

demanding to be posed –

of dead-end trails

that turn the conscious

back into itself –

of ancient sirens

luring black holes of the mind

to yield their own infinities.

And even this rather cryptic verse I penned almost twenty years ago relates to the notion that one can “see a world in a grain of sand/ and a heaven in a wild flower” (courtesy of William Blake).

The real beauty of poetry is that it reveals a side of the human condition which allows us to participate in the world around us without subduing it as an ornament – and there is a poet in each of us.

Dr. Arthur Ogden is the Campus Director for Alabama Southern’s Demopolis Campus and holds all his degrees in philosophy.

He can be reached at