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In the holiday spirit here is a short transcript about poets talking about their craft and attempting to find a solution to the question: What is poetry? No solution is found, but many angles of vision are shared. Each contribution EMPOWERS everyone else. I add my own commentary when appropriate.

Allen Ginsberg:

It's about catching yourself thinking. You remember what you just thought. All that is written down is natural. There's no making up of things. Just remember your own mind. Especially if it's interesting.

Gary Snyder:

It's about that which approaches the inexpressible and is very intense.

Unknown woman poet:

It's about harnessing every force of your conscious and unconscious mind. When dealing with the unconscious you need to be patient!

Octavio Paz:

This dis-association between the mind and body, thinking and feeling is a modern disease. You need to unite both poles. Poetry allows a reconciliation between the body and the mind.

Unknown black poet:

Inspiration chooses a poet. It's hard to know what chooses a poet when. But a good one recognizes it when it does. It's a blessing and a gift.

Czeslaw Milosz:

There is a constant disparity between reality and the language. Poetry is a hopeless and desperate pursuit of reality.

W.S. Merwin:

If you're writing from the right place. Your rational mind is not running everything and parts are coming from places that you don't know at all. Which are intuitive and not limited to your personality.

Unknown poet:

It's about playing on hunches and being fascinated by the magic of it all.

Unknown poet:

You need to tell the truth.


Poetry makes mindful about the things in front of your face.

Anne Waldman:

You need to change the world a little bit. You're looking at oneness and how aloneness rubs against it.

Victor Cruz:

It's a form of possession. It's an art form which has been around as long as any language has been. It's about things that grab us. We don't grab it.

Galway Kinnel:

It's the compulsory and elementary cry of the human being. It's about what it is to be on earth.

Yehuda Amichai:

It's like falling in love. You see something. You experience something. You touch something and then the words come. You feel very excited. Hot and cold. You shiver with both happiness and some kind of fear.

Stephen Levine:

It's a huge enterprise that you undertake in a struggle against death.

Octavio Paz:

Poetry is an urge and a function of language. Language fuses with metaphysical and psychological needs. Poetry is about big and small things. It's how language has the possibility to transform a precise sentence into a beautiful fragment of a great poem. Humor and eternity can both be in a poem simultaneously.

Stephen Levine:

You use all kinds of lines. You want to race down a poem. Then you use these skinny little lines. If you're bursting with detail the lines are pushed farther out. You just remain alert and leave nothing to chance. But we don't really know what it's about. Nobody does. We just do it....

Allen Ginsberg:

Sometimes you think in forms. How the poem will look on the page square. Like a sonnet maybe. I sometimes see it in a dream visually the first lines. For a poem I once saw the first 4 to 6 syllable couplets for the first stanza in a dream. Then I skated from there.

Sometimes, I think in rhythm. Forward pulsation rhythms. How the vowels collect themselves in this way. How the consonants collect themselves around the vowels as I mouth them in my body. You make it up as you go along. Like a blowing through a saxaphone. Pulsating cadences with a forward rhythm that's prior to the selection of an idea, word, or picture.

The cadence first. The vowel next. The consonants or two scattered into the next. Suggesting a word, suggesting a picture. Filling the rest next....

Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows....

Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the streets like endless Jehovahs....

Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog....

Moloch whose cities are crowned with smokestacks and antennas...

Get it?

When I was in Moscow. I was coming out of Vosnestsky's apartment. He asked me what language I thought it. I said Spanish, sometimes English. He said: I just think in rhythm....

KALAKALANG! Those Moscow bells you know....

Kerouac would mouth syllables not knowing what they really meant sometimes. Hr rolled ahead on the vowels. You see you need a vowelic breath. You need solidity of the vowels. The poem that breathes unobstructed is spiritual.

Gary Snyder:

My poems start as images or ideas. Complex pictures. Imagined enactments. moving, movement. The rythm is the driving origin of a poem. As it comes out it causes the rest of the poem to follow into that. Rhythms reflect deep things within us. Where we were at that time in our life. The different conditions of one's psyche in different times. An interesting mystery. Finding your forms and voice are very close.

Victor Cruz:

Things add up towards some poetic orientation. A purpose emerges. It's about being interested in certain kinds of rhythms and ideas. You become a vehicle that's already set up for the messages of this orientation that you already know. You position yourself to receive...

" The sun was through silk like water through coffee beans...."

W. Harajo:

Dreams are another reality that exists simultaneously with this one. Poetry is a way of accessing this divine space where you forget yourself and what you're doing.

" like a spin of broken sky...."

Stephen Levine:

Something comes at you sideways like in a dream. You need to stay close to the dream.

Octavio Paz:

It's like moving between different doors of reality. Between dreams and reason. The ultimate reality.

Unknown poet:

It's about changing habits of syntax, repeating words, and ways of shaping a poem and forbidding yourself recourse to any of them. It's about finding out what you've never done or have ceased to do. It's about discovering new ways of sound by force. It's about making a new verbal machine. It's about making different kinds of speech.

Yehuda Amichai:

You write to balance yourself and prevent yourself from falling down.

Unkwown Poet:

It's about redefining history and it's important for the human race. It's about documenting and monitoring things.

Galway Kinnel:

Inhibitions just dissolve and one speaks as a creature of the planet. Things intimate and secret are uttered. A species talks directly with full force about what it's like to be on earth. This is when poetry happens.

W.S. Merwin:

You don't let the words use you. You use the words instead wisely. You can't get lost in your own world of private references. You see everything from different angles until the words disappear and you're finally faced with the subject itself....

" It could be that there's one word that it's all we need...."

Gary Snyder:

Poetry is at the edge of your little perceptions and the vast darkness.

" How poetry comes to me, it comes blundering from the boulders outside my campfire, frightened....I go at the edge of the light to meet it. "


I like this definition of ANY kind of writing. The poetry zone is between the vast unknown and the limited known. Poetry illuminates the darkness. Poetry is about constant redefinition of what is already known. Poetry struggles to push beyond the limited known into the vast unknown from multiple directions. Many of them sometimes quite surprising even to the author.

Czeslaw Milosz:

Poetry is a channeling from another realm. Spirits help the poet in his losing battle to see more about the unknown. The striving is the most important. The actual accomplishment is never fully known. It's about seeing the ultimate reality behind the physical world. About going to the other side of the curtain so to speak.

Sharon Olds:

Poetry is a powerful human need. We will die as a species without it. Poetry speaks more directly and intimately from one human being to another.

Galway Kinnel:

Poetry speaks about what really matters.

W.S Merwin:

A poem is a gift to the language. A gift back to what the language has given you. It's a real debt to one's own species. It's a debt to the language. Poetry must keep us alive to the world around us. To our relationships to each other. To our feelings. Self-awareness is now being lost in the west. Not so in more older shamanistic cultures where multiple perceptions are not blotted out by a single one.


Poetry can be seen as a shamanic exercise. As a way to explore the emotions and thoughts of the inner mandala through rhythmic use of the outer rim vehicle of language along with the images that an outer rim vision supplies. The outer rim vision and voice is transformed by poetry as it's used to gain access to inner mandala thoughts and feelings. The more touched the outer rim is by the inner mandala the richer the outer rim becomes. It becomes rich with blessings and gifts from the inner mandala. The outer rim returns the favor by becoming a spiritual vehicle continuously for the inner mandala. It becomes a constant spiritual offering.


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The following comments are for "What is Poetry: A Group Mind Discussion"
by gamblerman

Poetically Actual
there can be no actual poetry...
without an actual Soul

( Posted by: awhippingflame [Member] On: July 23, 2016 )

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