|Rabbie Burns looking dandy and Scots|
Poets don’t stand much of a chance in the 21st century. The art of poetry has been supplanted by other mediums, and poetry itself is relegated to either ancient history or teens scrawling in margins. Sadly… because poetry is a living art, and should stay alive. Poetry is the spirit of language, and language is a fundamentally human endeavor. In fact, I would argue that poetry is the logic of the heart.
Let me explain!
In the days of my friend Robert Burns, poetry was living language. He communicated politics, love, national sentiment, revolutionary fervor, and much more in poems. Poetry was alive in a way that seems quaint to us but was very much a continuation of what words had been for millenia. From ancient sagas to pamphlets, poetry moved through human existence, informing and enlightening. Somewhere along the line, sometime during the 20th century, poetry ossified. The logic of the Word, the power of Logos itself, ceased. We needed to rely on a colder, more precise logic to communicate. We became newspaper men and trivia experts, and moved away from the truth of the poem.
Logic as a formal discipline is important, don’t get me wrong. Understanding mathematical logic is a great task, and I enjoy a good discourse on deductive, abductive and inductive logics as much as the next person. But poetry is a logic of words.
We exist as creatures of narrative reality. Our stories, our words, inform the world as much as anything else we consider objective and infallible. Ideas like integrity, honor and chivalry are communicated through poetic logics, the Logos. The ability, through words and speech, to make what was unclear clear. We are stories, as much as we are anything. Humanity exists in that realm, and tells stories to frame what we are for the present and the future people. If we lose poetry as an art, or diminish it to some academic and linguistic ghetto, we diminish ourselves.
Burns died at 37, like so many fascinating figures of history have. At 37 now myself, I think of what I can communicate and leave to my children, my students, my peers. Certainly not a Burnsian body of work, or a linguistic and cultural revival on his level. But a few words. A step in the direction of humanity, of real logos as a meaningful discourse in the world. A verse of the narrative that moves and defines us, humble though it is.