“The explorer finds little evidence for any of the way Homer describes Troy . . . Yet here, in the mind’s eye, stood an awe-inspiring city with soaring battlements dominating the plans. Homer and the bards were not deliberate liars, they were describing the place as poets. The magic of their words took a minor citadel and turned it into a stupendous stronghold immortalized in their descriptions. This is a credit to poetic imagination . . . [the poet] takes human figures and transmutes them into heroes. He inflates ordinary places so as to make them seem vast and impressive.” This, Poetry Slow Down, seems a great way to understand how epic poetry can inspire mere us to see our lives as heroic—no, not mere us—because what poets have their fingers on the pulse of, us, is the magnitude, I think, of our actual being; we are large to ourselves, our hungers, our pains, our fears, our hopes, our joys . . . the obstacles in the path, blocking our dreams, are huge to us—monsters, giants, huge forces . . . and every day, we confront and face them, and it requires bravery to be us, regular us, strength, resolve, resilience. . . When we read these poems describing the taking on of larger monstrous forces, it’s our inner life we are experiencing . . . a reality. Cervantes in the 1500s shows a man reading epic who transforms a dispiriting everyday life into something heroic. Paul Farmer, reading this literature, believes he can do something, be something . . . more . . . useful. To “shine in use,” as Tennyson says in “Ulysses.”
To occasions, when we’re knocked down, low, heavy heart, how we have it in us to do so, how we’re called on to do so, called for, and what poetry has to do with it. A rousing show, to lift, hoist, heave us aloft–down to earth wisdom from THE PoetrySlowDown with Professor Mossberg, “the news we need, the news we heed, the news without which men die miserably every day” (and we won’t let that happen, ever). And on this note we sing of Leonard Cohen, a supermoon pulling our heart’s tides.
Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.—Einstein
I’m trying to find something true that can’t be expressed by math.—J.D. Roberts
Can haiku save the day? We know sonnets can. It’s all about the math. It’s all about the equals sign, the existential triumph of it, the metaphor.