literature

Poetry and the making of things

Words create reality. Things exist when we have a name for them. We need names in order to differentiate things and distinguish them from the Big-Everything.

If you feel sceptical about this matter, think of the way magic spells work in fairy-tales or fantasy novels: sorcerers make things happen by simply pronouncing some special words; is that not enough? Then think of the way God creates the world in the Bible: He simply separates things and gives them a name (heaven from earth, night from day, etc.). Is that not enough yet? Then think of the ways the Eskimos call snow: they have so many different ways to say “snow”, that every time the snow falls, for them it is something different. The barren white landscape they live in becomes full of different shades of colour, whereas to us  everything is just “white”.

The more words we know and use, the fuller our life is. This is what makes literature important, this is why poetry is fundamental. Reading poetry is like re-creating the world around us, because poetry opens new windows in the rooms of our head, and this allows us to look at things from different perspectives and discover them as if they were new.

For example, let’s take one of the simplest poems by one of the clearest poets in the English language, the American William Carlos Williams. He was a doctor, and he used to sketch poems in his book of prescriptions, in between visits.

Well, I don’t know if this is true, it sounds romantic anyway; even more when you think of the poems he used to write.

Let’s read fragment 21 from the long poem called Spring and All:

so much depends

upon

a red wheel

barrow

 

glazed with rain

water

 

beside the white

chickens

The sense of wonder it conveys is fully expressed by the initial words: everything seems to revolve around the vision of a simple thing. It is just a wheel barrow, but it is RED, it is GLAZED with rain water (as if it were a cake), probably shining in the sun and it lies beside WHITE chickens.

The Beauty of things needs eyes to watch it and (again) words to express it.

So, let’s take inspiration from poetry and let’s keep in mind William Blake’s words:

If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.

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