Searching for a definition of poetry, I came across Dante’s: “things that are true expressed in words that are beautiful.” Truth and beauty have been in the spotlight for centuries and could also come to describe ‘love.’ What is poetry if not a kind of love—of life, truth, beauty—things of the spirit. Of course, those who are political activists often describe the unspeakable horrors of many things, as well as non-political poets who write about ‘ugly’ things. These things are also true. Most good poetry is grounded in an aspect of truth-seeking—be it of the spirit, of justice, of the good, and so forth. It is grounded in a form of love that is subtle and perhaps deeply buried in one’s self and still waiting to be born.
The poet maudit is a sensitive soul who has lost in life and love. But his or her losses have been turned into the seeds of a grand love of something absent, or unknown. Pain, the raw material of much poetry, speaks of the great sensitivity and courage of the poet, his or her love of the fragility of all things and the wish to convey sorrow that might speak to another who reads it and who finds a parallel in his or her own life experiences. Sharing loss, pain, feelings of despair, with others creates a kinship, a private connection of self and other which creates a bond of, dare we say, love? Why do we like certain poets and not others? Is it because there is a similarity in thought and emotion between the reader and the poet that makes us resonate with this other person?
True poetry is unreachable. It scales the sky and even moves beyond it. It is, as Elizabeth Bishop says, “Hundreds of things coming together at the right moment,” and one of those subtle things is love.