Many of the French surrealists of the early 20th Century were poets.
Maybe that’s why this game they invented (which is so easy to play) has a lot in common with exceptional poetry. At times it hits home with an epiphanic jolt and even an aesthetic rush … and it’s full of metaphors, which Aristotle considered the mark of genius.*
The fact that we’re playing a game and we laugh a lot more than we usually do with poetry is a just a nice bonus.
*The greatest thing by far,” said Aristotle in the Poetics (330 BC), “is to have a command of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblance.”
I love poetry. And I especially love Walt Whitman. He wrote that “every hour of light and dark is a miracle.” I got a sense of that myself when I ventured into an unlikely little park in the middle of suburbia.
Crystal Spring Park in Laurel Springs, New Jersey:
What I now know: Walt Whitman spent his summers between 1876 and 1884 in a farmhouse near Crystal Spring, a low magnitude natural spring at the eastern end of Laurel Lake in Laurel Springs, Camden County New Jersey. Whitman was convalescing at the time and is said to have visited the spot often to drink and bathe there as he regarded the waters to be healing in nature. The spring is still active today, trickling gently downhill into Laurel Lake.
Much of Whitman’s Specimen Days and part of Leaves of Grass (which he added to throughout his life) were written at this location. A boardwalk trail in the park features quotes from his Nature-notes of 1887-81 for Specimen Days.
It was sunrise when I arrived, and there was a dream-like quality to my experience here, like I had entered an alternate universe where poetry was understood to be integral to our humanity, because it is.
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
of what is found there.
From Asphodel, That Greeny Flower, William Carlos Williams
Let us remember … that in the end we go to poetry for one reason, so that we might more fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live them, and that if we more fully inhabit these things, we might be less apt to destroy both.
— Christian Wiman, former editor of Poetry magazine
What is reincarnation?
I try to be a mirror of the mirror of the love within things
Question Dietmar Tauchner, Answer Michelle Tennison (2017)
I’ve long been fascinated by the strange, multidimensional poetics of e.e. cummings. His work seems clearly to echo movements in the visual arts, and in fact he was also a painter whose early influences included Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism.
Sometimes amid the collage of neologisms and images he holds out until the final line to unveil a poem:
until No least
leaf almost stirs
as never (in
of silence) and
or until she
and he become
(on tiptoe at
the very quick
of nowhere) we
— While one thrush sings
–ee cummings, 95 Poems