A Thought I Had While Sitting In Moonlight

I’m back out on Santa Barbara Island. Last night around midnight, I went outside to sit and listen and watch. I  heard sea lions barking, waves crashing against the cliffs, the peeping of some species of seabird, and the banging of the flagpole rope against the pole. I saw the stars, the moon, the reflection of the moon upon the ocean, and forty miles away the dim glow of Los Angeles. I thought to myself, “I ought to try to write a poem.” And then I thought, “Naw. Nobody reads poetry anymore. Poetry is dying.” A terrible thought, really, and I had to think about that for a little while.

What is poetry? When it functions correctly, it’s a people’s expression of its deepest convictions and insights. The universe has a constant poetry going that sometimes we see in the form of coincidence. Not accident, but coincidence—where things mysteriously coincide, that is, the workings of karma. Those levels are always there. So, poetry, or the poetic, never dies, but a people’s awareness of it can. We can lose our convictions and insights. If no one is paying any attention to poetry in America these days (perhaps you could even say the modern world), I have to think that it’s the culture that’s dying, not poetry.

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16 Responses to “A Thought I Had While Sitting In Moonlight”

  1. Jeff Wietor Says:

    Poetry? Fading? Surely you jest. This site for starters can keep a room full of poetry searchers busy for days: poetry.org

    • markbittner Says:

      No. I don’t jest. Not at all. It seems quite clear to me that fewer and fewer people are reading poetry. It’s not poetry’s fault, so to speak. The culture is becoming more and more preoccupied with cheap thrills and entertainment.

  2. Patricia. Says:

    I agree about America…poetry seems to be more alive in England. Have you ever followed Baroque in Hackney by Katy Evans? She is a poet in England. It is interesting how the form seems to prosper overseas.

  3. rainnnn Says:

    I think poetry is popular and quite a few bloggers put it out. Sounded like the ideal atmosphere to write something poetic. Your description was good. Maybe create a haiku ;)

  4. Aurelle Says:

    Mark, I think of poetry as moment finding voice. The moonlight, the ocean, the sea lions, all the night sounds . . . you have given that moment utterance, and that is poetry in its most ancient and true sense. I love the thought that the universe has a constant poetry going! True song finds its hearers where they are.

  5. Jared Burton Says:

    Can Poetry Matter? by Dana Gioia

    http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/unbound/poetry/gioia/gioia.htm

    I still find great pleasure in poetry, but even more so when I hear it spoken.

    • markbittner Says:

      I know what you mean, and I agree. I’m not a big Jack Kerouac fan, but he’s one of the best readers of his own stuff that I’ve ever heard. When I hear him read I like him quite a bit more than I do when I read him on the page.

  6. Leni Says:

    I had an aha! moment the other day that I believe ties into Mark’s observation that poetry is dying. I was sort of pondering the same question when it occurred to me that emotion is currently being bred out of society by design. I hope I am wrong.

  7. tz Says:

    we need beauty, it does not need us

  8. Richard Gay Says:

    I was thinking of correcting “flagpole rope against the pole” to “halyard against the flagpole,” but realize that some people don’t have the technical terms at their command. But there you are, anyway. It’s essentially the same thing that experienced sailors curse the inexperienced ones for — cleating the sail halyard against the mast instead of away from it, hence the noise, all night long. Cheers. Loved the film.

    • markbittner Says:

      Yeah, I don’t know halyard from chicken yard. But thanks; I like to learn new words. Nevertheless, when I write I tend to avoid words that I don’t commonly use. Glad you liked the film. It’s gratifying to see how long it has lasted.

  9. Richard Gay Says:

    Was poetry ever a mainstay of western culture, outside of song lyric, outside the elite, or after it was taught to children?

    • markbittner Says:

      As far as I know, no. But there have been times when it carried a little more weight than at other times. Right now, it’s invisible.

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