Pure Poetry

Dylan was the word-maddest of word-mad young poets.

Often the best poems happen when lines cross; when poets write in pursuit of the spirit while their words still roar with years of obsession and love.

Dylan never put his poetry in service to anything but poetry. He served the Muse; he wrote pure poetry. But what is pure poetry pure of? It is pure of thought and pure of feeling, pure of vision; its largest emotion is love for itself.

So goes Donald Hall’s essay on Dylan Thomas in Their Ancient Glittering Eyes. I am simultaneously awed and disgusted; what is it about those who reach the edge of acceptable and choose to jump that will always get my admiration? I cannot respect because I cannot agree, but these lines are still there, the beautiful creation of a life despicably lived:

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs

About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,

  The night above the dingle starry,

               Time let me hail and climb

      Golden in the heydays of his eyes

I am attempting the impossible: to live well and create well. To write poetry that serves more than itself but that refuses to be merely therapy.

[A friend asked me my senior year of college, “What is the fault of bad poetry?”, and I said as I hurried across the grassy quad, “Sentimentality.” I know some of the answers.]

Words as words and words as art – to use them well but not join the ranks of Plath and Sexton and all the rest. To learn poetry as another way, but maybe not the only way.

[“Fern Hill”]

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