Dickinson said, Tell the all truth, but slant;
Keats saw beauty and swore it was the truth.
Wordsworth saw divinity in Nature;
Tennyson was a part of all [he’d] met;
Shelly was moved profoundly by birdsong…
And so have countless others probed our hearts
In search of the beautiful and sublime,
Those dusty hidden tombs that lie within,
That have kept knowledge long undiscovered.
Somehow poetry sinks deeply into
That chunk of meat that is the human brain.
With meter, rhyme, form, and lineation,
Tiny black and white words do half the work;
Words comfort and evoke our very souls.
Through allusion and similes they speak;
Symbolism conveys complexity.
A haiku can express a thousand words;
Ballads can convey what cannot be said.
Somehow, imagination elicits
Potential that is quietly latent.
Freer than is science with its method,
Mere words, with their symbols, can move mountains.
Schulman said [they] can, in fact, change the world—
Elucidating why the caged bird sings.
And philosophy is like an army—
With discipline, but flagging supply lines.
Descartes and Plato help us penetrate,
But the forest can be missed for the trees.
Divinity has ready-made answers,
Orthodoxy to guide the weary flock;
Priests and seers and oracles and such,
Tell people what to think, believe, and why.
Dreams: the royal road to the unconscious;
Defenses and tendencies all abound;
Psychology has met with great success
Analyzing and systematizing…
But can theories and statistics reveal
What really lies deep in the heart of man?
Tolkien chose a story fifty miles long
And characters vivid and well-conceived
To illustrate what was so elusive
That anything less memorable would fail.
The epics attributed to Homer
Caused the hard hearts of Hellenes to leap up
And outlasted pyramids and temples.
The few decades that surrounded Shakespeare
And gave purchase to the brave Romantics
Have been called by Bloom the best in English.
Sappho and Herodotus still beckon.
Feeling leads to meaning, it has been said.
Thus, is poetry the route to wisdom—
Or more chimerical than accurate?
Is literature—through vaunted great books—
Essentially lessons of the masters?
Do feelings always home in on the truth—
Or lead fallible humankind astray?
Can “Bobby McGee”, like a rolling stone,
Draw out of me that which lies well-hidden?
Is the freedom of poetry its strength—
Or do I merely project and avoid?
Is ambiguity but a Siren,
Luring unsuspecting men with its song,
Causing error and prejudice to grow,
And our lizard brains to misunderstand?
Perhaps poetry has seen the deepest,
And novelists have struck center target.
Melville and Montaigne, and both Woolf and Wolfe
Brought millions of readers along with them
As they set out upon the open seas
Describing distant lands within us all.
Ten thousand troubadours with their lyres,
And Shakespeares, Miltons and Dantes with quills—
Did, like Kafka’s metaphoric ice ax,
Break through the frozen seas within us all,
And peace and fulfillment sit silently
Until a seeker encounters their gold.
As Hawthorne’s buoyant little butterfly
Alighting upon the susceptible—
Bringing the happiness they have long sought.
The most important things, it has been claimed,
Are visible not with eyes, but the heart.
It seems wisdom is in integration.
If we triangulate values we seek
Using disparate methods and pathways,
We will best see through the paradoxes
And pitfalls which belie Knowledge and Truth.
We have the power to ingeniously,
Temper our passion with lofty reason;
To brave the ocean with an astrolabe—
Apollo and Dionysus as one.
Both feeling and thought fused within one mind
So as to make one and one equal three.
Is reliability in science
Best combined with insightful poetry
And imaginative literature,
Joined to penetrating philosophy
And married to spirituality,
The ideal way to apprehend knowledge,
And guide the curious human being?
In the beginning, I said: “find their truth,”
Which is different from empirical facts
Or an abiding, transcendental Truth.
Yet the human condition is such that
We have only our senses and our brain
With which to glimpse our loftiest ideals.
Yet, we do have the power of vision.