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Charge Your Style with Life
March Poetry Corner Exhibit

Charge Your Style with Life
  • Poems (by )
  • The Raven (by )
  • The Selected Poems of Pablo Neruda (by )
  • When I Was King: Poems (by )
  • Leaves of Grass (by )
  • Verses 1889-1896 (by )
  • Poetical Works : Volume 1 (by )
  • The Prelude Or, Growth of a Poets Mind (by )
  • One Hundred Poems of Kabir, Tr. By Rabin... (by )
  • Collected Poems of John Keats : Volume 5... (by )
  • Rhymes of a Red Cross Man (by )
  • The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunb... (by )
  • The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shell... (by )
  • In Memoriam (by )
  • The Collected Poems (by )
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In the countable sense, a verse is formally a single metrical line in a poetic composition. However, verse has come to represent any division or grouping of words in a poetic composition, with groupings traditionally having been referred to as stanzas.

In the uncountable (mass noun) sense verse refers to "poetry" as contrasted to prose. Where the common unit of verse is based on meter or rhyme, the common unit of prose is purely grammatical, such as a sentence or paragraph. Verse has had a traditional application in drama, which is therefore known as dramatic poetry, verse drama, or dramatic verse.     

Great poetry is an interrogation. It questions its own culture, the society that birthed it, life itself, and even it’s own existence. It finds itself in the pantheon of eternity by approaching these questions

In an 1862 issue of The Atlantic, a letter was printed out to its reader under the title Letter to a Young Contributor, and within its lines it called for writers to “charge your style with life.” An aspiring, unknown writer replied in query to the author of the article, “Mr. Higginson,/Are you too deeply occupied to say if my Verse is alive?” They would go on to create a great editorial relationship, one being editor and literary critic Thomas Wentworth Higginson, and the other being the great American poet Emily Dickinson.

This wasn’t the question that Dickinson’s poetry bent for, but it did show the spirit that would grant her entrance to the lexicon of great poets. She quickly surpassed the the ability of Higginson to mentor her, and though her poetry was never published in her lifetime, it is apparent to us now how completely she took Higginson’s charge to heart.

Great poetry is, at its height, the punch and guts of life. In its least, it is the intimations on a postcard you keep in your back-pocket from a dear friend.

Great poetry is a cross-dresser between painting, prose, pottery, and something else completely amoebic, that je ne sais quoi. It is the closest human has come to explaining why we dream. It is the blueprints for a pyramid and a home, rich soil ready to birth a garden.
It is the blood of the muse, extracted or given but eternally alive, an indefinable act of creation verified by its own existence. The essence of poetry is very much like the Chinese philosophy, yin and yang, and very much contained in the contradicting multitudes, as Walt Whitman proclaimed in his collection of poems, Leaves of Grass

It devastates in its simplicity, cleverly hiding truths like traps between lines. It gives accent to speech, gives shade to the primary colors. It defies and recreates language and understanding. It is a humble warrior, that shoves a vision in you like a splinter. It is the tinder and match in the dark woods of the heart. 

Poetry, as vague and necessary as color. And go ahead and attempt to explain color to one another. It is impossible without feeling (or by explaining it with similes, metaphors, analogies), and poetry is the essence of that feeling, feeling grew atop poetry, when we stood up on our feet and began to walk, when our spirits began to rise, poetry rose beside us. 
The great poets knew their words were as signs or traffic signals that direct one to the actual poem. It is a corralling, it is a give and take, it is an oblation, it is a tease between two long and desperate lovers. 

Poetry is a devastator too. It is a multitudinous spirit of life and death, not to be taken lightly. It is a greater drink than the hardest alcohol, greater than ethanol, ether, gasoline. The great poets felt they had to counter the weight of poetry with drink and opiates and many succumbed, out of balance. 

“Be drunk,” Charles Baudelaire said. “On wine, on poetry, or on virtue as you wish.” He had imbibed poetry fully, when all had scorned him. It was the marrow of time, and still he lives.

This marks the beginning of what will be an evolving monthly series on poetry, where we will delve into different movements, styles, themes and theories of poetry and the lives of poets.

By Thad Higa

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