For the Love of Poetry


Photo credit: Patuska from morguefile.com

In the past few posts, we’ve explored the depths of poetic fears and even the occasional cloaked hatred of poetry. We’ve also discussed some strategies for dealing with those issues which included talk therapy and a type of systematic desensitization

Today, let’s explore some reasons we like poetry or dare I say, love poetry? What lures us to this word-art form?

According to the data collected from an esteemed selective demographic—our own group of WSS poets, reasons vary poet-to-poet. 

And they span the entire spectrum from: “It’s the one that gives me the most room to play.”(thank you, Khara House) to compelling altruistic reasons.

The poll results indicate:  

  • One poet admits to reading poetry because it doesn’t take long to read.
  • One says she develops a new sense of empathy for others.
  • One likes poetry because it helps her to be more creative.
  • Two WSS poets say that poetry helps them express their feelings.

For four of us, however, poetry presents us with a new perspective on life and I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that for the others, this is true, too.

 I’m going to camp on this last one for the rest of this post because it deserves some attention.

Didn’t your mama tell you not to stand on the furniture?

Remember in Dead Poets Society when John Keating (Robin Williams) instructs his students to stand on the school desk as a reminder to look at the world in a different way? He tells them “just when you think you know something, you have to look at it in another way.”

He gave them permission to climb on top of the desk. Some readily did, some were reluctant. For all it was transforming.

A few years ago, I adopted the motto Tertuim Quid.

Definition from the On-line Etymology Dictionary

“Tertuim Quid: 1724, Latin, literally “third something,” loan-translation of Greek triton ti (Plato), used in alchemy for ‘unidentified element present in a combination of two known ones.’”

Okay, that makes no sense.

Here’s a better definition from the Free Dictionary:

1. Something related in some way to two things, but distinct from both; something intermediate between two things. 

I confess to not being the brightest jellybean in the bowl, so I brought this down a notch.

Tertuim Quid: the third thing, the other thing.

Here’s how it works in my mind:

  1. The first thing: MY preconceived notion of a situation or ideology.
  2. The second thing: MY preconceived notions of what YOUR perspective is based on MY preconceived experiences or information.
  3. The third thing: That place from which I stand on a desk and view that other perspective. It might be several perspectives, but within a poem, it is that writer’s perspective. At that moment. About a situation or feeling or thought. Even if that poet is writing in the voice of an anonymous narrator or character.

 Tertuim Quid is that defining  moment when I begin to perceive a point-of-view that is different from my preconceived thoughts, something I hadn’t previously conceived or cognitively entertained.

This third thing, thus, also assists me in becoming more empathetic . It encourages creative thinking. It encourages expression of feelings in that we can feel safe to write vulnerably if our readers are thinking tertuim quid (Yes, I just verbed tertuim quid)

In other words, if they, too are standing on their desks.

Metaphorically speaking, of course. 

(Unlike drama, I’m not going to encourage you to break a leg.)

One last thought:

Agreement is not the end-all and purpose of a poem.

Expression is.

Understanding is.

Connection is.

Keating goes to to tell his students, “We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. . .  poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

As Sabra Powers stated, “poetry is the most powerful, connecting, and meaningful writing I know.”

You just can’t say that about any other form of writing.

Or can you?

What’s your tertuim quid on this perspective?

7 comments for “For the Love of Poetry

  1. April 22, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Great post, JL, and I love the motto. I think that creativity heightens awareness and makes us open to more possibilities.

  2. April 22, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    And possibilities breed poems.

  3. April 22, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    Interesting read…the idea of Tertuim Quid. Liked seeing the results of the survey. Thank you for your article and contributions to WSS.

  4. April 23, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    Sometimes when I’m writing fiction, I like to read only poetry. No novels, no stories. I hope the language and the rhythms will somehow root themselves into my subconscious and show up in my work! Very interesting post. Thanks, poets, for letting me visit.

  5. April 26, 2013 at 5:51 am

    Great post! I like your motto. In The Artist’s Way, Cameron also talks about moving your desk & chair to get a different perspective. I love the distillation in poetry, and I love the leap that Robert Bly talks about in Leaping Poetry, that giddy soaring between two known points, between the thing and the image, that opens up the imagination.

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