A poem a day

Posted by on May 4, 2014

'He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven," poem by WB Yeats in Drumcliff churchyard, Co. Sligo, Ireland

‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven,” poem by WB Yeats in Drumcliff churchyard, Co. Sligo, Ireland

Some now ask, as did Sameer Rahem in a Telegraph review—how can poetry “cope with the swift promiscuity” of our digital world? A poem is, among other things, a time stopper. Like Georgia O’Keefe’s flowers, a poem is an occasion to hold still and look at some part of the world close up. To experience a poem requires stillness and attention. But with the increased speed and hyper-connectivity of each new OS update, our fidelity to the poem or the flower before us is harder to maintain. And hyperlinks, a boon of convenience, fracture and divert our attention. Which is why it may be true that poetry is more important today than it has ever been before.

Perhaps we should ask the question the other way around—can poetry help us cope with the “swift promiscuity” of the digital world? I’m betting it can. The only “hyperlinks” in a poem, after all, are the metaphors. They are not clickable. They do not take us away, but bring us closer to, what we are looking at. Poems engage, rather than subvert, our imagination. I’m going to make sure I read a poem every day, maybe two or three. And to start, here are a few lines from a favorite poet, Michael Hartnett—

Poets with progress
Make no peace or pact
The act of poetry
Is a rebel act

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