Human beings are a race of poets — some of us develop this trait fully while others of us are content to walk through life without a thought to the world that surrounds us. We have the capacity to see nature and the world around us as something more than meets the eye. Some see this human trait as biological, simply a series of synapses firing or connecting when we view a scene in nature or think abstractly, but some see it as a spiritual endeavor outside of biology that we develop in order to transcend everyday existence. Either way, it is a quality unique to humans.
In a letter to his brother Theo, van Gogh wrote, I should like to paint the portrait of an artist friend, a man who dreams great dreams, who works like a nightingale sings, because it is his nature to do so.
Van Gogh saw the poet as being surrounded by stars, representing the universal in thought that poets seem to tap into, the burst of creative energy that burns and fires the mind of those who see, rather than simply look. The result was a portrait of Belgian painter, Eugene Boch which hung in his bedroom in the yellow house. He named his painting The Poet, and it now hangs in the Musee d’Orsay in France
The poet sees the stars as something more than a collection of burning rocks. Poets in ancient times were the first to name and group the stars and assign meaning to them. If you have ever paused for a moment to watch a cloud form, even once in your life, or in your private thoughts, compared the ripples of water in a pond to the rhythm and cycles of life, then you are a poet.
I see poetry as being alive, in that simply breathing and experiencing reality and being in the moment can make us aware of the gamut of our senses and emotions. When we express this in words and another human being touches upon our thought, a torch is passed. We find mental and spiritual nourishment in one another when we share and celebrate the beauty of nature or lament the sorrows and pain of life in poetry.
The poet is not usually a wealthy person. Poetry is not a profession, but an unbound human act of thinking, feeling and existing. Whether we are aware of it or not, the need for poetry is a human need much like hunger, thirst, or love. The poet in us speaks in many ways, through the written word, painting, and even technological arts like photography and digital design and architecture, but everyday we gift and sustain one another with it instinctively in a simple hello.
Nature has saturated the universe with visionaries who look at the world and dream of filling the empty space of their lives, just as the trees reach out to an empty sky. We can all do poetry. We can create metaphors that stand in for large ideas that fellow humans can read and hear. When we are touched by a poem, we nod, recognize ourselves and find validation in the human experience. While crafting words can be a lot of work, it is the rare wordworker who is celebrated — that comes with the territory of publishing.
In the days before publishing, when poetry was not the written word, but only the spoken word, money was not a factor. The poet sang or recited by heart the story of a culture or a people, putting them in the context of the universe, and providing meaning to a seemingly senseless world.
It is not money, wealth and fame that brings us release from the fatigue of life, but poetry. The poet taps into the beyond of everyday reality and language. Poetry defines us.
We are a race of poets
surrounded by stars,
naming them, we name ourselves.
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