Friday, January 23, 2009

Poetry Friday: Defining Poetry As It Pleases Me

"What is poetry? Not quite getting what you want, and thereby getting something better..."
~Robert Peake, explaining The Pleasures of Frustration in Poetry

"If you want a definition of poetry, say: "Poetry is what makes me laugh or cry or yawn, what makes my toenails twinkle, what makes me want to do this or that or nothing!"" ~Dylan Thomas

"Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry. "~W.B. Yeats

Today, I'm defining poetry as Rev. Joseph Lowrey's benediction, given this past Tuesday at the Inauguration:
God of our weary years, god of our silent tears, thou, who has brought us thus far along the way, thou, who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our god, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee.

Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand true to thee, oh God, and true to our native land.

Poetry Friday is with Laura Salas today.


  1. Lowery did a great job with the benediction, especially by quoting James Weldon Johnson in these opening words! The lines are from "Lift Every Voice and Sing," which Johnson wrote for a celebration of Lincoln's birthday.

  2. May I offer a definition, Sara?
    Poetry is a blind date with enchantment.

  3. Such great quotes -- and yes, I agree. That benediction was pure poetry!

  4. Great definitions of poetry, Sara. And I would hasten to add "So many of Sara's posts."

  5. Those are pitch-perfect definitions of poetry (including J. Patrick's). Rev. Lowery's was beautiful. I'll ask y'all: Where does poetry end and prayer begin? Is there really a separation?

  6. Pat: "A blind date with enchantment" is a lovely definition.

    Sara: Loved Lowery's words. And Alexander's, too. And the definitions you've chosen. Over at my blog, in the transcript of Colbert's interview with Alexander, he asks (in the negative) "poetry isn't true, is it?" and I think that really the point is, that poetry IS true.

    Thanks for the lovely, thoughtful post.

  7. I listened to the benediction in my car, and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. It made me tear up a couple times--I was like that all that day, though.

  8. Libby: Thank you so much for providing the source. I knew he was quoting something in the beginning, but I thought it was a hymn and I was too rushed to track it down this morning.

    J. Patrick: now there's a description you could add to your business card. :)

    Jama and Karen: Thank you! I love what both of you post on Fridays too. Always a source of riches.

    Terry: I think you could write a whole book about your question. I have a pet peeve about certain kinds of didactic public prayer, so for me, poetry is the perfect role model for the GOOD stuff.

    Kelly: Colbert and Alexander got to the heart of it in a very funny and incisive conversation. You rock for transcribing it!

    Adrienne: I'm kind of thinking that the radio would've been the way to listen to the whole thing. Not that the pageantry wasn't wonderful, but listening helps you focus in a more intimate way.

  9. I love, love, LOVED THAT BENEDICTION. That gave me a good teary giggle that lasted quite awhile. It was so funny, because Jackie had just observed that he was so old she was afraid he'd fall to dust before his lengthy remarks to God were over, and then -- Bam! -- he showed he was still quite alive.

    Poetry as prayer, though -- have to agree with you, Sara. Poetry IS the good stuff. And yes, it's TRUE.

  10. Wonderful post, Sara.

    Poetry breathes within everything and everyone. Poetry is still observation and active imagination.

  11. I've often wonder how one defines art, and here you've shown us that even if one, universal definition eludes us, there are many gorgeous, truth-filled descriptions that are right on the money.

  12. Thanks for the link. I'm afraid I liked his benediction poem more than I liked Alexander's inaugural poem.

  13. GOR-geous! I like seeing it written even better than hearing it spoken. Thanks!

  14. Wow. Thanks for this! I am quoted in good company.

  15. I loved that benediction. I missed the end of it because I had a first grade class coming into the library and had to turn it off so I am really glad to have your post and link here. Wonderful poem/prayer.


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