Why Choose a Poet?


quote from a poem by Leonard Cohen

Unlike the usual handshake and hello, if you want to get to know a poet, meet him or her in their poems.  Poets reveal themselves in their work though not always directly or deliberately.  It’s like having a backdoor to somebody’s character, bypassing small talk and public appearances.

Maybe we don’t want to get to know people that intimately.  Maybe we are already buried with what people want to share.

Langston Hughes continues to be one of my favourite poets and though many of his poems are brilliant not all of them are great.  His contribution to poetry goes beyond his acclaimed and academically studied poems.  This poet wrote so prolifically that it is easy to feel like you can meet him through the various stages of his life, and through his poems I always have access to a beautiful searching soul.

quote from a poem by Sappho

We are all beautiful souls.  Not all of us have the talent (or time) to express or study them the way our master poets have.

Now there are many writers and poets who I have found beautiful in their work and not so much in their biographies.  ie. Dylan Thomas, Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, etc … So, maybe I am being naïve about a writer’s humanity being revealed in their work? Maybe a horrible person can still produce beautiful poetry?   Fact is, there are many beautiful souls who do not write beautiful poetry.

To the not-so-beautiful poems, a voice needs the opportunity to evolve and they don’t all evolve the same way.

And to the beautiful writing but questionable characters?  Go ahead and call me naïve but I think if these writers did not always live their lives well, or to my best opinion, anyway, they got a chance to show their better sides in their writing.  Better doesn’t always mean pretty or nice.  Hughes’ beautiful soul didn’t always write pretty poems or happy ones.  Sometimes, it’s that courage or chance to be more real.  And that can often happen by accident in creative writing.

Poets never leave; they don’t die.  Poets never stop asking their questions; they never stop looking for their answers.  Poets are always accessible and alive whenever you are ready to open their poems.

Poets make good company.

Check out this great link to ‘life lines’ that people have found in the poetry of others:  https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/life-lines

Please also check out the latest addition to the lyw channel on Youtube, making poets and poetry our daily treat and exercise.  This new addition is a video in two parts called, ‘… a small piece of poetry can often feel very big…’  In this video, I collected some fragments of poetic gems and animated them with a little eye-candy and background music.  I hope I am not too biased when I say the animation does actually animate the text.

Video Part 1: ‘… a small piece of poetry can often feel very big …’


Video Part 2: ‘… a small piece of poetry can often feel very big …’




Author: lillian y wong

lyw (lillian y wong) is a writer.

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