Sunday, January 30, 2011

To Stop Feeling Futile

We discussed "Song of Myself" in poetry tutorial today. I have not yet read the whole thing, but I think it is beautiful. My favourite section so far is the following passage:
Through me forbidden voices,
Voices of sexes and lusts, voices veil'd and I remove the veil,
Voices indecent by me clarified and transfigur'd.

I do not press my fingers across my mouth,
I keep as delicate around the bowels as around the head and heart,
Copulation is no more rank to me than death is.

I believe in the flesh and the appetites,
Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles, and each part and tag of me is a miracle.

Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touch'd from,
The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer,
This head more than churches, bibles, and all the creeds.
What I recognize in this passage is courage - the courage that must have been necessary, in Whitman's time, to stand up for the status of the body and the value of sex. Evidently this courage would be necessary even today, as people were laughing in my poetry class about his erotic language.

What Whitman reminded me is that poets must write for the people, and that poets must stick true to their vision. Poetry is not just a vehicle for excessive emotions. Poetry has the power of vivid and sometimes frightening imagery, as well as memorable phrasing - they use these tricks all the time in advertising - so it does have, in part, the responsibility of nurturing new values, of changing the societal landscape.

I am only twenty. It is stupid to be anxious over whether or not I will end a writer, just because I don't always have a poem in progress in my mind. I do not yet have the vision Whitman or Wordsworth had. The important thing is that I've pushed myself. But beyond that, it doesn't matter if I don't get published or not this year. I've done a lot of work this school year already: I've started to learn about poetic theory; I've memorized many poems; I've pushed myself to read more, and to read with an open mind, and read not only famous poets but less respected ones as well. Because if I really want to call myself a writer, I need to live and breathe literature - the common as well as the canon.

For now, that's enough. No need to feel that my efforts are futile. I might not even become a writer if things don't work out.

School is getting better. I don't mind the labs or physics classes as much anymore. It is foolish as well to think that science is not useful. These will probably be my last physics classes so I'll just have to enjoy them while I can. No need to feel that they are wastes of time.

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