Listening to the Good News in Poetry
I cherish friends who love good poetry, and I enjoy the way we share our favorite poems in social media posts and emails. So I think many can understand the meaning in one of William Carlos Williams well known poems, Asphodel that Greeny Flower, when he wrote: “Look at what passes for the news. You will not find it there but in despised poems. It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die every day for lack of what is found there, ”*(recall that “men” in his era refers to the human family of men and women.)
In this love poem for his wife Flossie of 40 years, he wrote, “my heart rouses, thinking to bring you news of something that concerns you and concerns many men.” The news we get from poetry is not the same as reported in the daily media. Williams is referring to something deeper, more nourishing, life sustaining. Though we will have different ideas about what the important news is, I perceive in the reference to death, “men die every day,” an allusion to soul survival, the suggestion of not dying, another life after this one. If you “get the news,” you’ll leave “lack,” to experience fullness, what we might call ascend to heaven (or the mansion worlds), attain Nirvana, “graduate,” enter the afterlife that spiritual traditions have taught us about in varying details. The poem ends, “Hear me out for I too am concerned and every man who wants to die at peace in his bed besides.”
Those who are spiritual but not religious (SBNR) may see that the message we get from poems is one of mental health, balance, emotional intelligence, soul health, progress. Are poets still delivering news that’s spiritually nourishing, leading readers/listeners to know these truths? If you look, you may find they are.
Where can poets do the work that will help the planet thrive? I consider myself a working poet; I often ask what exactly is our (or my) work? Engineers and carpenters build workplaces, houses, bridges, and highways. What do poets build? When I started writing, my goal was to construct a different kind of shelter, to frame new thoughts and insights, to reflect them accurately and clearly, so they’d be understood, to share ideas that might be inhabited comfortably by another, lived in, a philosophy of life, a life raft, to guide one in the construction of a character, to make better decisions about the purpose we wish to serve, or were born to achieve.
Here’s a poem about the future life. This one is about an entity, a spirit guide, that accompanies us in life and the hereafter: “I Am Not I” (by Juan Ramon Jimenez)
“I am not I.
I am this one
walking beside me whom I do not see,
whom at times I manage to visit,
and whom at other times I forget;
who remains calm and silent while I talk,
and forgives, gently, when I hate,
who walks where I am not,
who will remain standing when I die.”
There are so many more poems about spirituality in our present and future life. Go out and get some of the news from poetry!