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CZ.com | Poetics | The Poet as Creature of the Cosmos
 

6. The Poet as Creature of the Cosmos

     I've been writing poetry since I was fifteen years old—about twenty-five years. I've also been studying, teaching, and editing, raising children, running a household, and participating in a marriage. I'm a mother, a daughter, a wife, a sister, a friend, a teacher, an editor—and a poet.

     I write poetry because being a poet is an integral part of who I am. It is, in fact, the one activity that gives shape and meaning and coherence and clarity and continuity to all the other activities of my life. It is a discipline, an art, and a life-long commitment, as is being a parent, a mate, a friend.

     When I write a poem, it is a process of discovery. If I'm lucky, I find out what I know and what is knowable. When I write, the physical world I am part of, and alive in, interfaces with the spiritual world. A good poem—real poetry—gives a readout of the entire state of the universe, at any given time.

     The poem is an expression of my individuality, my humanity, and my corporeality—as a creature of the cosmos. The personal in poetry is the root of the poem —what has dug into the ground. Trunk, branches, leaves, and flowering are the aesthetics, the craft, and the vision. The poem is organic, a growing thing, an integrated expression of my living.

     The poem patterns my experience, which is random, chaotic, quite often unfathomable—and makes it sometimes understandable. The poem gives comfort, order, meaning, structure, and beauty. The poem is a window onto the psyche—as is beauty in nature, and truly felt love for another person.

     The poem demands I involve my faculties on their deepest and most profound levels. It is not easy to write real committed poetry during an entire lifetime. It is not a pastime, nor a vocation: it is a discipline, an art, and a commitment. Poetry is difficult and demanding. It involves talent as well: you can't become a poet by wishing. Poetry is a gift—but one that requires continued cultivation, practice, and dedication to bring to fruition. For the poet, the act of writing is the most natural, fulfilling expression of being a creature of the cosmos.

     Sam Hamill, in his essay "Shadow Work", writes: “Poetry is not commerce. It is not something which can be exchanged or traded. It is a gift to the poet, a gift for which the poet, eternally grateful, spends a lifetime in preparation, and which the poet, in turn, gives away and away again.”

     Poetry is the gift the poet gives back to the universe. Given gratuitously, as the offering from a life being lived, the poem has a life of its own, inviolable. It has meaning, beauty, and gives creaturely comfort. And it allows us to learn what there is to be known—through the poem's form, it informs. And it has nothing to do with markets, and being popular. Poetry is to be shared with the poet's fellow creatures. Gratuitously. Cosmically.

  Carolyn Zonailo
Poetry Toronto, 1988

Copyright by Carolyn Zonailo: www.carolynzonailo.com, 2004

 
 
CZ.com | Poetics | The Poet as Creature of the Cosmos
 
 
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