Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. – TS Eliot in “Tradition and the Individual Talent”
Fortunately, my class readings have been providing very relevant fodder for Poetry Wednesday! I am so intrigued by what TS Eliot is saying in this quote. Do you agree with it? What do you think he means? It is from a larger section that details what “good” poetry does and what young poets often run into when writing. Poetry is a craft that can serve to compartmentalize the good and the bad, helping the poet make sense of the world. Outside of the art of it, it is also a healing process; it is used frequently in trauma processing and therapy.
In his last book Endpoint and other poems, John Updike tackles his own impending death in a series of beautiful and haunting poems that cover a range of topics. Thus far, my favorite from the collection is entitled “Half Moon, Small Cloud.”
Half moon, small cloud
Caught out in daylight, a rabbit’s
transparent pallor, the moon
is paired with a cloud of equal weight:
the heavenly congruence startles.
For what is the moon, that it haunts us,
this impudent companion immigrated
from the system’s less fortunate margins
the realm of dust collected in orbs?
We grow up as children with it, a nursemaid
of a bonneted sort, round-faced and kind,
not burning too close like parents, or too far
to spare even a glance, like movie stars.
No star but in the zodiac of stars,
a stranger there, too big, it begs for love
(the man in it) and yet is diaphanous,
its thereness as mysterious as our.
In this poem Updike has taken an emotion and escaped from it; its only appearance is in the last line. This mystery of life and death and our own existence, but extended and paired with the moon. I really love this poem. It was love at first sight, if you will, and has lived up to its first reading wonderfully.