I've been writing a lot of poetry lately and have decided to start sending the stuff out. But there's a voice in my back mind which keeps droning "Why bother?," which is also saying "You won't make money at it" (true) and "What the world doesn't need is another book of poems" (true again). So why do it? The usual reasons of ego and hubris. But also something a bit more pure: a love and a thirst for language so expansive that it forces me to try to make some dent in the obdurate world I live in.
Language is one of the most fascinating artifacts people have ever created (even better than sliced bread and snooze alarms). But language is not simply an artifact, multifaceted like a diamond or sparkling like a Renoir. Without it we would be ignoble savages, unable to communicate with one another or hold counsel within our own selves; it is, in other words, the closest thing we have to a soul, to an essence, something without which we would not be who we are, and this is why we protect our right to have it the way we want it with such fierce love.
Poetry is that essence in its best voice. In the highly condensed and symbol-ridden effort that a poem is, all the clutter that characterizes most of our language interactions is cleared away so that the bones of an object or a feeling or an insight shine in all their calcium whiteness. Poetry is a sharpener of the senses, a penknife whittling off the woodenness that threatens so much of our daily living.
To me, the only sensible purpose in life is to live life; nothing higher than that is built into the universe. And for me "living life" means gluttonously seeing what there is to be seen. Poetry is my eyes. Writing a good poem forces me to manifest not only the atoms of the individual thing I'm seeing, but also the force-fields around it that mesh with all the other forces that make up all the other things in the world. To write poetry I must be brutally sensitive to the web of things which catches me and defines me. To write poetry I must soak myself with the gasoline of words and then torch myself so that I can burn bright enough to see what's going on around me. Writing poetry, that act of language and fire and rope, makes me alive, makes me feel purpose in a universe that too often feels like a severe joke.
My poems won't change anything. But scribblers like me keep an edge alive against the threat of the official and the condoned. And occasionally we buzz out a phrase that sticks and brings out a smile or a thought that hadn't been there before. Not bad work for a day.