First Words

I need poetry more than ever

These are not poetic times. We live and breathe prose.

Experience and maturity teach us that certain things in life cannot be forced. Love cannot be forced on another. The church’s liturgy does not inspire a soul through coercion. A child’s affection for broccoli can never grow out of threat and intimidation.

We might add poetry to the list (see “An invitation to wonder”). Years of reading poems to my wife in the morning have yet to win her over to the majesty of verse. Her cool reaction to what strikes me as a stimulating image or exciting metaphor suggests that the poems I choose sound roughly equivalent to a reading of the Congressional Record. So I choose my poems carefully and my poetry mornings sparingly, taking care not to confuse gentle persuasion with compulsion.

A few weeks ago my wife and I attended a recital by a New York City opera singer. We both found the program transcendent, not simply because we know and love Claire, the singer, but because her glorious way of making music seemed to transport the entire audience to another world. The day itself was ordinary and gray. Most of us were sick and tired of yet another news cycle involving congressional probes into Russian interference with U.S. elections. A friend came over to us after the recital. “Wasn’t that spectacular? An hour and a half of poetry—something our country desperately needs right now. This is by far the best thing that has happened to me in 2017!”