Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Temperament, Faith, Attitude and Why Poetry Matters

Why poetry matters: Richard Wilbur died last month. "He was, Dana Gioia said, the finest poet of his generation and the greatest American Christian poet since Eliot. Here's an example of why I liked him so much:"

St. John tells how at Cana's wedding feast
New York Times 
CreditNancy Palmieri/Associated Press

 The water pots poured wine in such amount

 That by his sober count

There were a hundred gallons at the least.

 It made no earthly sense unless to show

 How whatsoever love elects to bless

 Brims to a sweet excess

That can without depletion overflow.

 This is from John Garvey's article in the Pilot. Garvey admires the rhythm of Wilbur's poetry.  It's like music.  The words are beautiful and the meter and rhyme beg to be put to be put in a song.

Garvey likes the discipline of Wilbur's style.  It makes sense to him.  He compares Wilbur's poetry to an ordered universe.  In fact, he says when chaos reigns, the world dies.  This is why poetry and its beauty and reflection of the glory of God are necessary.

Who can argue that?  Not I.

But I was attracted to a different Wilbur quote:

I feel that the universe is full of glorious energy, that the energy tends to take pattern and shape, and that the ultimate character of things is comely and good. I am perfectly aware that I say this in the teeth of all sorts of contrary evidence, and that I must be basing it partly on temperament and partly on faith, but that is my attitude.

 I honed in "temperament," "faith," and "attitude."  These three attributes are what is necessary for poets and the admirers of poetry.  Temperament, faith, and attitude, but the greatest of these is attitude.  Temperament is inherited.  Faith is a gift.  But attitude is up to you.

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