Most people, I believe, write some sort of poetry when they are very young. Over the years, this poetic impulse, for the majority, gradually shuts down, as the “real world” overtakes us. I’m one of those who, while not a published poet, continued to write poetry and songs all my life.
And I have a theory (surprise!) w.r.t. the writing of poetry in my native tongue, which is obviously English. Now, poetry is a universal impulse, written in all languages and by all cultures over the millenia. But it seems to me that poetry written in English, to a greater extent than other languages, benefits enormously from the very structure of our language. More than almost any other “common” modern language, the very genesis of English, amalgamated at the Battle of Hastings from the Anglo-Saxon and the invading French, contains ambiguities and overloaded meanings that I think are less prevalent in other, “purer” languages. And this birthmark, I think, also makes English extremely susceptible to continued expansion. Yes, in modern life, all languages accept and incorporate foreign words and phrases (many from English), but our language has had this predilection since it came into being. Perhaps in the same way that people who master at least one foreign language early in life have been shown to be much better at learning subsequent languages. Once the groundwork of an extra language has been laid, the brain seems more disposed to adding other kinds of words and syntax. Perhaps our cultural communication mechanism (ie, English), born in two worlds, is more prone to adding words from other worlds.
Furthermore, the mixed syntactical origins of English have led to (perhaps) awkward constructs in phrasing and sense. As an example, the auxiliary verbs are all over the map. The merging (actually, a sort of re-merging, Anglo-Saxon meeting back up with the Normans, who had taken a deep detour into Latinism) of our two main language DNA strands led to unusual pronunciations and syllabic stresses and spellings.
And for me, it is this resulting ambiguity and combination of soundings that has made English the perfect language for poetry. Phrases and lyrics can contain multitudes of overloaded meanings, like a hologram of intersecting intents. For myself, at least, that provides a power in English poetry that may not be readily available in other languages. Beautiful, transcendent images can be described in any language. But images that can lead to multiple emotional responses, even responses that may contradict each other, seem to me have a greater power to invoke that wordless wonder that the best poetry invokes.
At any rate, that is my theory. I wonder if there has ever been a scholarly or formal investigation in a similar vein? It’s likely. There is nothing truly new under the sun.
My sunset is someone else’s sunrise
My evening is another person’s dawn
My morning ends another’s daylight
My sunrise stops another’s song.
My arrival’s another’s soul departure
My coming takes up another space
My going makes a space to enter
My leaving leaves one to take my place.
My future is all my children’s history
Tomorrows that they knew yesterday
My story builds on older stories
My past has always led me to today.
My stars shine down as others’ suns
My storms leave peace in others’ skies
My life takes only so much room
A room I see with only these, my eyes.
© 2016 Chuck Puckett