Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Defending Poetry . . . .

With sadness I learned yesterday of the death of poet Meena Alexander (1951-2018) -- not only a fine poet but also one of my treasured teachers during my MFA studies at Hunter a bunch of years ago.  As I browsed the works of Alexander online I found here in World Literature Today her essay "What Use Is Poetry?" which includes reference to Shelley's "In Defence of Poetry." 

     Shelley's words led me to think of mathematics; perhaps you will, too:
          “It creates for us a being within our being. 
           It makes us inhabitants of a world to which 
           the familiar world is a chaos. It reproduces 
           the common universe of which we are portions and percipients, 
           and it purges from our inward sight the film of familiarity 
           which obscures from us the wonder of our being.”

Although Alexander's subject matter is not mathematical, her imagery is vivid and her thinking is careful and I want to share a link to some of her work. The following sample is taken from the poem, "Raw Meditations on Money, 1. She Speaks: A School Teacher from South India," and appears in her collection, Quickly Changing River (Northwestern University Press, 2008).  The poem (found here at PoetryFoundation.orgcontains some sadly-shocking numbers.  

from Raw Meditations on Money, 
           1. She Speaks: A School Teacher from South India
           . . .
       Slowly in the hot air they swung, three girls.
       How old were they?
       Of marriageable age certainly.

       Sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen, something of that sort.
       How do I feel about it?
       What a question! I am one of three sisters,

       most certainly I do not want father to proffer money
       he does not have for my marriage.
          . . .
Alexander's complete poem is available here.

No comments:

Post a Comment