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An unfinished narrative poem of humankind

by Lucy Cristina Chau

The world, as the majority of us know it, has been narrated by words through time and
space, and - to preserve its evolution and development - history, journalism and
literature have registered almost everything that has happened since the existence of
humanity. Unknown and forgotten, hidden and ignored information is being completed
by science, as the logic trustable source of our time, a time in which information -
paradoxically - is never to be completely trusted.

History, placing most facts in the form of an ideal timeline, has given humanity an
apparently convenient form, in which the overall winners seem unquestionable; and
journalism, condemned to sell the impact of everyday happenings in daily deadlines,
plays the role of an ephemeral attention catcher, mostly showing facts and consequences
ruled by power, with little interest in subjects who seem not to be determinant for their
purposes. On the other side of this accounting of time, literature plays a deeper role,
sometimes facing readers with uncomfortable realities of humankind, but always being
a trustable source of information about world history. However, literature has not been
understood for its true role in history, even when to understand different periods of the
world development, many literary works have been a clue to solve their mysteries.

Poetry, an apparently silent witness of time, has recorded the very deepest thoughts,
emotions, feelings, and interrogations of humanity. This record of truthful pain, joy,
grief, passion, examinations and other valuable information for humankind has been
portrayed by an uncountable number of writers who live in and tell about different
cultures, times and populations.

The poet lives the same chronological space, but observes the world in detail, registering
small gestures, actions, feelings, meanings, the shape and order of things, as well as the

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manners of those who are rarely registered by history or journalism. Metaphors and
similes provide the world with renewed meaning, as they relocate our vision with
comparisons and provide significance to what the senses perceive, but are mostly
ignored.

Poetry had overcome the Aristotelian tradition, which defined this art as a mere
production of aesthetic texts, to bring a deeper meaning into emotions and perceptions
of reality, sometimes terrible and obscure. A human being can be touched by poetry,
not even understanding the literary figures it uses to construct a poem. This magic
occurs in general with art, but there is a huge impact in the unconscious when the same
words we use everyday can have a different significance in a poetic text. One may think
a poet is talking about a rainy day, as in Longfellow’s (1831) “The Rainy day” poem,
when he says it is “dark and dreary”, but it is the metaphor of the character’s own state
of mind, who - as the day - is experimenting a dark and dreary feeling; a depression, one
can say if noticing he was a young widowed man. Not far from this tremendous power of
poetry, Ginsberg (1956) introduces “Moloch” as a monster who takes away people’s life,
referring with his poem to the modern industry time, in which machines and production
kills humanity with its ferrous hunger for goods and production. And when Maya
Angelou (2011) talks about the “touch of an angel”, providing a celestial meaning to love,
that “liberates us into life”, the reader can also feel the highness of the concept she
brings with her poem. All three poets in different times and situations have told their
vision of culture and human condition in the same country. All of them, together with
hundreds of poets have left clues to understand what the world was living and what
society meant for single humans.

When reading or listening to a poem, a person feels its strength, even if not
understanding literature features, without knowing how symbols represent ideas, how
alliteration or assonance also tell about the intention of reiterating a concept that hits

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the mind of the poet, making it significant to a more experienced reader, but making
sense for the soul of any person with a bit of sensibility.

As the world keeps repeating that genders like poetry are somehow archaic, the poet
continues going deeper in sense and meaning, knowing that this register of time and
quality might not be appreciated, but for a few. As population grows in very difficult
conditions, condemned by consumerism, seems that lesser people can devote time to
reading, and if a literature gender could be sacrificed, poetry would be the first to enter
the pantheon, but at the same time, popular songs, publicity and messages throughout
the world take advantage of the magic of poetry to portrait ideas who will get directly in
the unconscious mind and open the secret door of intuition that words open.

How can we say poetry is dying, if life itself is still full of meaning? The answer might be
in the perception of time, as philosopher Han (2016) says: “Today, things linked to time
become obsolete much faster than they used to. They quickly become things of the past,
and therefore escape our attention”. If today’s world and all its demands for production,
its urgencies and dispersion seem to shorten time close to disappearance, poetry makes
a call for humanity, a call for beauty, for deep meaning and significance, an invitation to
look into the profound of life and history.

Being told in a combination of words and silences, society usually proclaims a distance
with poetry, but mostly because of a predisposition to escape from truth in deep, truth
in exposition of its own emotions, the “pathos” that Aristotle defined to appeal to the
audience’s sentiments. Rather than feelings, society feels more comfortable with logics
and ethics, as nothing too personal seems to be exposed. No danger, no profound
waters of truth, no poetry for a world that avoids looking into the mirror of its own and
deep reality. But sometimes, only poetry can explain what is inside a person, and time
constructed by poetry appears as the only real voice of humanity.

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Works cited:
Angelou, Maya: ​Love’s exquisite freedom​. Poem “Touched by an Angel”. Published by
Welcome books, USA, 2011
Ginsberg, Allen: ​Howl and other poems​. Poem “Moloch”, Published by City of lights. NY, USA,
1956.
HAN, Byung-Chul: ​The scent of time. A philosophical essay on the art of lingering​. Published
by Polity Press, Cambridge, UK, 2017.
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth: Poem “​The rainy day​”. Published by Oliver Ditson, Boston,
USA, 1847.

Other bibliography used:


Anoceto, Edelmis. ​El minotauro y la mariposa. Diálogos de poesía con Roberto Manzano​.
Published by Sed de Belleza Ediciones, Santa Clara, Cuba, 2015.
Staiger, Emil. ​Conceptos fundamentales de poética​. Translated from the book Grundbegriffe der
Poetik, published in Zurich by Atlantis Verlag and published by Ediciones RIALP, S.A.,
Madrid, 1966.
Yezzi, David. Article “Poetry & Truth”. Published in ​The New Criterion​, Vol. 33, Number 8,
2017, page 20