Wonder about poetry...

Camille

The Force is Strong With This One
(Just thought, funny "wonder" means both "ask oneself" and "amazement"... I'm not an native english speaker :p )

I've always written poetry. I'm not very "productive", I only write when a strong necessity is felt, but I can say it is the activity that suits me most deeply. But, roughly, since the coronavirus and the first lockdown, I'm kind of dry of "inspiration", it seems that I no longer have this faculty of being fascinated, amazed. Also, I don't suffer from it as much as I would have expected, but still, I can feel something missing, and I can't really tell how much this kind of "lack" is significant and wether or not I should worry about it or/and try to remedy it.

That lead me also to wonder about poetry, since I started - thanks, among others but notably, to Laura and the C's - to consider things from a more "cosmic" point of view. (First, I thought I would post this thread in the "Questions for the C's", but I then I suspected I may come up with, at least, the beginning of an answer myself.) The questions are : what is poetry ? What is its function ?

I think there are two kinds of poetry : one that in some sort is just a way to cope with our ignorance and feeling of helplessness by staging it in an aesthetically pleasing form, but in the end it remains ignorance and feeling of helplessness. That would be the majority. The other kind, the (rare) "true" poetry, is the formal expression of a real understanding and cannot in no case contain any bit of ignorance.

I'm currently reading Gurdjieff and I was struck by his take on art (I'm reading it in French so the translation is mine) : "In true art, on the contrary, nothing is accidental. Everything is mathematical. Everything can be calculated and predicted. The artist knows and understands the message he wants to deliver". The problem is, most of the things we are inclined to find beautiful, are things we don't understand. (Tell me whether or not I should only speak for myself :p ) We are fascinated by strangeness, and it is what we want to display in art : that feeling of the unknown, and not a truth or something we understand as a truth, and therefore art can be merely objects of misunderstanding, unknowing, or ways to beautifully not know and understand, pointed out. It's like, the moment you understood something, it's not interesting anymore (notably from an aesthetic point of view). A part of me knows what Gurdjieff means and agrees, but another part of me finds it a little bit sad. Is it just some kind of program to make us feel ignorance and its manifestations desirable ? Or is there something else ?

It's like, the more I learn about this reality, the less I feel like writing. It's puzzling.

Sorry if all this is a bit messy. Have you any thoughts to share ?

Camille.
 

Michael B-C

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
Hi Camille.

A profound question indeed. I think you have already noted how today's poetry - like all else in our world - has been much degraded in form, substance and purpose, to become too often just another self-indulgent whim of the self-afflicted (the association of mental illness and poetry has a distinctly modern, nihilistic allure with such icons as the suicidal Sylvia Plath becoming the go to image of a 'true' poet...).

As you also suggest, however, it wasn't always thus - and Gurdjieff was one of those who recognized this corrupting, creeping loss of substance and deeper meaning in our age that has taken the form so far from its original purpose and exiled it to the absolute fringes of culture. Our ancestors would not have understood this as being possible as the poet or bard was as central to the cohesion and health of the people as the king, and was by tradition invited to speak ahead of the royal head who was expected to give due reverence to the sacred act of deep remembering and collective memory-making that poets were empowered to invoke - including most importantly the centrality of the natural, cosmic world to their lives, the hidden secrets within that shape our true being and how the poet of all people was blessed and anointed by nature herself to be able to bring the invisible to life via the unfathomable complexity of word, image, metaphor and rhythm. The education of such poets was long and arduous being handed down generation upon generation, orally, like a sacred wright; indeed the Art of Memory, which underpinned the capacity to recite enormous works from memory, was on a par with the technical achievement of the modern computer - and it was a mental practice and discipline that took many many years to master and perfect before the poet was even ready to commence serving out their public function. All lost now I'm afraid.

I think one of the best summations of the mystery of true poetry was written by English philosopher Sir Francis Bacon back in the 17th century when shall we say poetry - or Poesie - still meant something and was seen by many as still the greatest of all human art forms. The style of writing back then - even in prose form as here - was dense and complex so I appreciate this may be a hard read, but if one perseveres there is much to be gained by the understanding he shares. And I think his deep knowledge may well reflect a personal, hidden, first hand knowledge of the matters upon which he speaks. I hope this helps you further with your search for a deeper truth on this matter.

Extract from Francis Bacon’s Advancement of Learning (1640), Bk. II, ch xiii.

As for Narrative Poesie, or if you please Heroical (so you understand it of the matter, not of the verse) it seems to be raised altogether from a noble foundation; which makes much for the dignity of man’s nature. For seeing this sensible world is in dignity inferior to the soul of man, Poesie seems to endow human nature with that which History denies; and to give satisfaction to the mind, with, at least, the shadow of things, where the substance cannot be had. For if the matter be thoroughly considered, a strong argument may be drawn from Poesie, that a more stately greatness of things, a more perfect order, and a more beautiful variety delights the soul of man, than any way can be found in Nature since the Fall. Wherefore seeing the acts and events, which are the subject of true History, are not of that amplitude as to content the mind of man, Poesie is ready at hand to feign acts more heroical. Because true History reports the successes of business, not proportionable to the merit of virtues and vices; Poesie corrects it, and presents events and fortunes according to desert, and according to the law of Providence: because true History, through the frequent satiety and similitude of things, works a distaste and misprision in the mind of man; Poesie cheereth and refreshes the soul, chanting things rare, and various, and full of vicissitudes. So as Poesie serveth and conferreth to delectation, magnanimity, and morality; and therefore it may seem deservedly to have some participation of divineness; because it doth raise the mind, and exalt the spirit with high raptures, by proportioning the shews of things to the desires of the mind; and not submitting the mind to things, as Reason and History do. And by these allurements, and congruities, whereby it cherisheth the soul of man, joined also with consort of music, whereby it may more sweetly insinuate itself, it hath won such access that it hath been in estimation even in rude times, and barbarous nations, when other learning stood excluded.

Dramatical, or Representative Poetry, which brings the world upon the stage, is of excellent use, if it were not abused.
For the instructions and corruptions of the stage may be great, but the corruptions in this kind abound; the discipline is altogether neglected in our times. For although in modern commonwealths, stage-plays be but estimed a sport or pastime, unless it draw from the satyr and be mordant; yet the care of the Ancients was that it should instruct the minds of men unto virtue. Nay, wise men and great philosophers have accounted it as the archet or musical bow of the mind. And certainly it is most true, and as it were a secret of nature, that the minds of men are more patent to affections and impressions, congregate, than solitary.

But Poesie Allusive, or Parabolical, exceeds all the res
t, and seemeth to be a sacred and venerable thing, especially seeing Religion itself hath allowed it a work of that nature, and by it traffics divine commodities with men. But even this also hath been contaminate by the levity and indulgence of men’s wits about allegories. And it is of. ambiguous use, and applied to contrary ends. For it serves for obscuration, and it serveth also for illustration: in this it seems there was sought a way how to teach; in that an art how to conceal. And this way of teaching which conduceth to illustration was much in use in the Ancient times: for when the inventions and conclusions of human reason (which are now common and vulgar) were in those ages strange and unusual, the understandings of men were not so capable of that subtilty, unless such discourses, by resemblances and examples, were brought down to sense. Wherefore in those first ages all were full of fables, and of parables, and of enigmas, and of similitudes of all sorts... So even at this day, and ever, there is, and hath been much life and vigour in parables; because arguments cannot be so sensible, nor examples so fit.

There is another use of Parabolical Poesie, opposite to the former, which tendeth to the folding up of those things; the dignity whereof deserves to be retired and distinguished, as with a drawn curtain: that is when the secrets and mysteries of religion, policy and philosophy are veiled, and invested with fables and parables...
 

Persephone

Jedi Master
I'm currently reading Gurdjieff and I was struck by his take on art (I'm reading it in French so the translation is mine) : "In true art, on the contrary, nothing is accidental. Everything is mathematical. Everything can be calculated and predicted. The artist knows and understands the message he wants to deliver". The problem is, most of the things we are inclined to find beautiful, are things we don't understand. (Tell me whether or not I should only speak for myself :p ) We are fascinated by strangeness, and it is what we want to display in art : that feeling of the unknown, and not a truth or something we understand as a truth, and therefore art can be merely objects of misunderstanding, unknowing, or ways to beautifully not know and understand, pointed out. It's like, the moment you understood something, it's not interesting anymore (notably from an aesthetic point of view). A part of me knows what Gurdjieff means and agrees, but another part of me finds it a little bit sad. Is it just some kind of program to make us feel ignorance and its manifestations desirable ? Or is there something else ?

It's like, the more I learn about this reality, the less I feel like writing. It's puzzling.

Sorry if all this is a bit messy. Have you any thoughts to share ?
Hi Camille, I don't write poetry, but I hade/have a similar concern regarding dance.
I loved to dance, in order to put my trapped energies in motion and to have access to my repressed emotions, to stop my inner dialogue and connect to another part of myself, to connect to another person in a way other than through words. For me it was a really effective way for that. It led me to explore territories that I couldn't explore otherwise, take a step back from certain situations and broaden my perspective, to open up to people (I was very shy and closed); but at a certain point it wasn't enough for me anymore. I wanted to create dances. But how could I do it? I didn't just want to create nice empty forms, to tell stories, to mime or at best express personal emotions. That's when I came across Gurdjieff's writings on art. Like you, I felt he was right, but somehow it blocked my impetus... I found it 'cold'. Where was personal creativity?
I had tried to solve, at least conceptually, the dilemma by telling myself that the true artist captures essential, abstract truths, the names of gods, and makes them manifest, in a creative way, through symbols, poems, music, dances...
Recently, after reading what Laura and the C's said about dance, I got back to the subject (I have also begun to read what Jeanne de Salzmann says about dance) and I will share my findings with you.
But you can also try to just write and let it flow, as Hello H2O said, and see where it takes you :rolleyes:
 
The questions are : what is poetry ? What is its function ?

I am writing with a google translation from my language. I do not know if it will be a good translation. I thought about that too. I was dealing with poetry and philosophy for a while.
I thought a lot about meanings, concepts and language. The ability to think without any vocal language. There were people in Ecuador who had a language made up of only 7 letters. Poetry is the most effective use of language in mathematical sense. Meaning dance and play without limiting the mind with language itself.
 

Camille

The Force is Strong With This One
Hi Camille.

A profound question indeed. I think you have already noted how today's poetry - like all else in our world - has been much degraded in form, substance and purpose, to become too often just another self-indulgent whim of the self-afflicted (the association of mental illness and poetry has a distinctly modern, nihilistic allure with such icons as the suicidal Sylvia Plath becoming the go to image of a 'true' poet...).

As you also suggest, however, it wasn't always thus - and Gurdjieff was one of those who recognized this corrupting, creeping loss of substance and deeper meaning in our age that has taken the form so far from its original purpose and exiled it to the absolute fringes of culture. Our ancestors would not have understood this as being possible as the poet or bard was as central to the cohesion and health of the people as the king, and was by tradition invited to speak ahead of the royal head who was expected to give due reverence to the sacred act of deep remembering and collective memory-making that poets were empowered to invoke - including most importantly the centrality of the natural, cosmic world to their lives, the hidden secrets within that shape our true being and how the poet of all people was blessed and anointed by nature herself to be able to bring the invisible to life via the unfathomable complexity of word, image, metaphor and rhythm. The education of such poets was long and arduous being handed down generation upon generation, orally, like a sacred wright; indeed the Art of Memory, which underpinned the capacity to recite enormous works from memory, was on a par with the technical achievement of the modern computer - and it was a mental practice and discipline that took many many years to master and perfect before the poet was even ready to commence serving out their public function. All lost now I'm afraid.

I think one of the best summations of the mystery of true poetry was written by English philosopher Sir Francis Bacon back in the 17th century when shall we say poetry - or Poesie - still meant something and was seen by many as still the greatest of all human art forms. The style of writing back then - even in prose form as here - was dense and complex so I appreciate this may be a hard read, but if one perseveres there is much to be gained by the understanding he shares. And I think his deep knowledge may well reflect a personal, hidden, first hand knowledge of the matters upon which he speaks. I hope this helps you further with your search for a deeper truth on this matter.

Extract from Francis Bacon’s Advancement of Learning (1640), Bk. II, ch xiii.
Hello Michael, thank you for your consequential answer, it is a real pleasure. I totally agree with you regarding the decay of poetry. I think it started mostly with Romanticism - and it's not easy to admit for I was a "fan" during a long time - the exaltation of the self, of feelings for the sake they were personal, the indulgence for self pity and the miserabilism, the dolorism even resulting from it. Baudelaire wanted to "represent the agitation of the mind within Evil"... Because we all are miserable in some extent, we identify with those poems displaying confusion, suffering and self-centered considerations, and because we see ourselves in them we think they cannot get better, because we're also proud of being miserable... The great success of that poetry, and the creativity we see as tied to it reminds me (distantly, but still) of the infinite refinements we can demonstrate in such a domain as torture. There are many more ways "evil" can express itself in than for goodness.

I did not know about "the sacred act of deep remembering and collective memory-making" or "the Art of Memory", if they are from specific traditions, could you tell me which ones ? I'd like to learn about it.

As for Sir Francis Bacon, I find this extract enlightening. Yes it's a bit hard to read but I managed with an online dictionnary (wordreference, which I find very effective). Could you just suggest a synonym for "shews", at the end of the first paragraph ("proportioning the shews of things to the desires of the mind") ? I understand the link with "show" but not the exact signification. Anyway. We're far from these conceptions nowadays, because the paradigm today seems to be that anyone could be a poet, that it takes just some technical abilities to achieve it, affinity for words. Bacon builds his vision on the idea that the poet must be able to comprehend the invisible, to imagine how things could be if the Fall had not taken place (which means to see how they actually are in other realms). I think it's the core of my disconcert (if it's a word, if it's not I like it anyway), that poetry is actually a challenging activity, and not just a way to express oneself with absolute (and somewhat fantasized) freedom and infinite possibilities, that it demands real human and spiritual virtues, and not just some affinity for words. In fact, I'm frustrated because I often feel that urge to write, to create, but often I don't know what to do or how to do it. (I realised recently that this urge I feel is very like a sexual desire, but I don't quite know yet what to do with this discovery...)

Thank you again for your answer !
 

Camille

The Force is Strong With This One
Maybe you are feeling pressure to write something special, or profound.
Why don't you write, and just let it flow?
IMO I think creative acts are even more important now with all the craziness around.
You're right, I should probably relax a little... And yes, art is real fresh air these days !!
 

Camille

The Force is Strong With This One
Hi Camille, I don't write poetry, but I hade/have a similar concern regarding dance.
I loved to dance, in order to put my trapped energies in motion and to have access to my repressed emotions, to stop my inner dialogue and connect to another part of myself, to connect to another person in a way other than through words. For me it was a really effective way for that. It led me to explore territories that I couldn't explore otherwise, take a step back from certain situations and broaden my perspective, to open up to people (I was very shy and closed); but at a certain point it wasn't enough for me anymore. I wanted to create dances. But how could I do it? I didn't just want to create nice empty forms, to tell stories, to mime or at best express personal emotions. That's when I came across Gurdjieff's writings on art. Like you, I felt he was right, but somehow it blocked my impetus... I found it 'cold'. Where was personal creativity?
I had tried to solve, at least conceptually, the dilemma by telling myself that the true artist captures essential, abstract truths, the names of gods, and makes them manifest, in a creative way, through symbols, poems, music, dances...
Recently, after reading what Laura and the C's said about dance, I got back to the subject (I have also begun to read what Jeanne de Salzmann says about dance) and I will share my findings with you.
But you can also try to just write and let it flow, as Hello H2O said, and see where it takes you :rolleyes:
Hi Persephone ! Thank you for sharing, I don't know a thing about dance but I can imagine to some point how liberating it can be. I'm not a dancer but I had a few very pleasant moments 'moving in rythm' :p

That concerns like that are shared is comforting, I'd like to read about your future findings, thank you :)
 

Camille

The Force is Strong With This One
I am writing with a google translation from my language. I do not know if it will be a good translation. I thought about that too. I was dealing with poetry and philosophy for a while.
I thought a lot about meanings, concepts and language. The ability to think without any vocal language. There were people in Ecuador who had a language made up of only 7 letters. Poetry is the most effective use of language in mathematical sense. Meaning dance and play without limiting the mind with language itself.
Hi ontologia, I also have an interest in philosophy. I like the idea that 'Poetry is the most effective use of language'. I recently heard someone talking about poetry, and saying that, for him, real beauty in poetry came from economy of means : simple, pared-down language but abundant meaning. Is that what you mean by 'most effective' ?
 

BHelmet

The Living Force
exalt the spirit with high raptures, by proportioning the shews of things to the desires of the mind; and not submitting the mind to things, as Reason and History do.

What comes to me on this is that the shews of things could be equated with the outward appearances of physical reality and actions. That seems in accordance with his theme of poetry being an expression of a deeper and higher Transcendent reality.
 

Camille

The Force is Strong With This One
Thank you @BHelmet I think I understand now. I believe 'shews' is to be related to 'shadow' at the very beginning of the quoted extract : 'Poesie seems [...] to give satisfaction to the mind, with, at least, the shadow of things, where the substance cannot be had.'

I recall now that, on the first reading, this statement struck me, because it seems to grant a positive value to the 'shadow of things' and contradict the more classic hierarchy between form and substance, according to which the form cannot in any way, from any point of view, equal or compete with the substance. It reminds me of something Victor Hugo said : 'the form is the substance that rises to the surface' ("la forme, c'est le fond qui remonte à la surface").
 

Mililea

Jedi Council Member
FOTCM Member
You really shouldn't think so much about whether what you're writing is profound art. In my opinion, that's in the eye of the beholder. Because a text can be completely weird and unimportant for one person, but for someone else it's exactly THE clue they were missing. Or that touches one's soul.

I like writing very, very much, but unfortunately I often don't have the time to let the thoughts and words flow out of me in peace.
I live in a multi-generational house and we have various working groups, including a writing workshop. And the two women who lead it always provide various small exercises, after which everyone writes and we read the works to each other. Everyone can say something about it, but without evaluation in the real sense, so it's not like a lecture. It's more like talking about the content. I have sometimes been amazed at what my brain is capable of producing. And also how many different texts come out (we are always up to 10 people) with the same task. Fascinating. Unfortunately, it can't take place at the moment because of the Corona requirements.

I don't know if you can call it art, but I see it similarly to singing. Just do it and let your creativity run free. As long as you enjoy it, it's just wonderful. Who knows who you will touch with it.... I also find that you often touch yourself with the writing process itself and have the opportunity to work through things. And you can work with with yourself.

Playing with words that flow from the soul can be really healing. :flowers:
 

Camille

The Force is Strong With This One
Thank you very much @Mililea for your answer. You're absolutely right, I shouldn't torment myself. In fact, there has been some kind of release in my writing something like three weeks ago. A friend of my landlord came here to stay for some time (he's still here). I know him for a while for he's alrealdy come a few times, but now we've trully met each other. He came to help with some work in my landlord's house, but he also writes poetry and philosophy. One night he mentionned a poem he just finished writing and because it was about the World Music Day in Paris he wanted to translate it in French. I offered to do it with him (I don't know any Romanian - he's Romanian - but he knows French well enough to help me understand in a subtle way the meaning of his words) and it was the beginning of a truly fascinating interaction. We discovered that we share many interests and a very similar poetic and philosophical view of the world. And, I don't know, just being in his presence and seeing how free he is with his art kind of unblocked something in me and I'm really writing a lot since then. My friend liked the first poem I wrote after that so much that he decided to translate it into Romanian... So, for now I can say I have no more problem with it all ! It truly is a liberation.

As for your writing group, it seems very cool ! In my experience, talking about what one has written can be really compelling if there is an understanding between the participants. It's a shame you can't do it anymore... at least I hope it doesn't keep you from writing and being able to share it in some other way, even if it's just a little ! For me it's indispensable. I have a website for it, it's like a social network, but dedicated to writing people (it's called Scribay, I don't know if it exists also in German, there are only French authors on the one I go to). I put my things online, and even if not a very large number of people read it, at least it's reachable and that's all I need.

Thank you again for your contribution !
 
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