A reality common to us all

“One demands two things of a poem. Firstly, it must be a well-made verbal object that does honor to the language in which it is written. Secondly, it must say something significant about a reality common to us all, but perceived from a unique perspective. What the poet says has never been said before, but, once he has said it, his readers recognize its validity for themselves.”
W. H. Auden
English and American Poet (1907-1973)

I believe in all creative writing the writer tries to tap into the commonality of human experiences. When I read a poem I really like it’s often because I’ve wanted to write about that subject but couldn’t find a way in or I just love the language the writer chose to get their experience across to the reader. There is less than four weeks before I start the next semester so I have started to look at new books for study.

Poetry As Spiritual Practice by Robert McDowell just got added to my list. I have only skimmed in because I want to use the book and the exercises as jumping off points in my study plan. The author writes that “poetry makes us better listeners, wiser talkers”. What do you think about this statement? As a beginning poet I don’t feel like a wise talker yet but poetry has definitely helped me be a better listener.

Today based on one of Robert McDowell’s ending exercises write a letter to a friend using any poetic form you choose. You never have to mail the poem/letter to the friend or if you’re feeling brave you can mail it or share it with them. Now get back to work!

The Writing Nag

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One Reply to “A reality common to us all”

  1. I’m going to look up the book; it sounds interesting.

    As far as being “better listeners, wiser talkers” I’d have to say that it depends on the poet. I know a broad range of poets, some of whom are truly bad listeners. They are more interested in getting their own point across than in hearing others. I also know some poets who are indeed “better listeners, wiser talkers.”

    The more poets I get to know, the more amazed I am at the diversity of folks who are drawn to write poetry and the less I take broad general statements like the one quoted to be true.

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