Monday, November 13, 2017

Why Poets Are Awesome

And yet, her cold, dead eyes haunt me.
Poets do in a handful of words what it takes a novelist several thousand.

Consider a "simple" Dickinson poem:

Because I could not stop for Death -
He kindly stopped for me -
The carriage held but just Ourselves -
And Immortality.

In just the very first line, Dickinson conveys the sentiment of most mortals. We have much to do, much we would wish to accomplish, much and more that we'd like to see and experience. Some of us, toward the end, might welcome Death (personified in this case), but a good majority of us, if given the chance, would be too busy. And yet, Death is inexorable and undefeatable. Indeed, even within the next two lines, Dickinson provides for not fight, no whining, no excuse for her speaker. Death simply shows up, and the speaker is next in the carriage. But in her final line, we have something of a paradox that is not immediately explained—the speaker, Death and now Immortality are altogether. How is that possible when the speaker is dead?

This is only the first sentence—twenty words—and yet, Dickinson has set up an atmosphere of quiet acceptance, the persona of Death inside His carriage, and is already in pursuit of a meaning, or lack of meaning, to our mortal lives.

That's just scraping the surface and it took me close to 200 words to explain a part of Dickinson's 20.

Were I to pursue these themes as part of a novel, I'd first have to set up the character, the setting, and the plot which is easily a few thousand words before we've even come to the rising action. This is just one "little" poem. Nothing compared with some of the longer pieces like "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" "The Wasteland" or "Paradise Lost".

No comments:

Post a Comment