Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Poetic Justification and Medicine
April, the poet told us, is the cruelest month. As it happens, it is also National Poetry Month, which makes its debut on April Fool’s Day. And the biggest fools of all may well be those who believe that contemporary poetry matters in the least… My main point is that of any of your children or grandchildren comes to you and declares a wish to become a poet, send that child to bed without any dinner, and return to your place on the couch before the television set.
Joseph Epstein, essayist and writer, “The Poetic Justice of April 1,” Wall Street Journal,  April 1, 2013
Joseph Epstein’s comments that poetry ia a dead art that shouldn’t be wished upon one’s children is a well-written.
But I disagree with his point  that poets only speak to each other,and not to the world at large,  and that he wouldn’t want his children to become poets,
My son, Spencer, is a naturally known poet.  He won the Breadloaf prize for poetry. Winning the prize revitalized his life.  James Franco, the actor, produced a film based on his book The Clerk’s Tale.  The film was shown at the Cannes Film Festival, and a documentary is now  being made of his teaching of poetry at the Little Roses Orphanage in Honduras.   You can view a preview of the film on You Tube at ourlittlerosesfilmteaser.com.  It may be shown at the Sundance Film Festivel and o HPO,

Spencer is now an Episcopal priest, which expedited his admission the Tale Diviinity School. For the next year,  Spencer will be in Honduras on a Fulbright scholarship at an orphanage, teaching children to express their feelings and experiences in poetry.    He and Richard Blanco, the inaugural poet for President Obama,  will  then co-edit a book of poems written by children at the Orphanage.
Good poetry allows you to tap your inner emotions in a few words.   Good poetry, according to Garrison Keillor in his book Good Poems, has wit, frankness , passion, and utter clarity. Good poetry touches our souls.  It has a more profound effect than you might think.  If you give the matter any thought at all, you will realize poetry s a the heart of lyrics of  patriotic songs about the fruited plain and the purple mountains' majesties, and for that matter make up the lyrics of popular and country music songs and Broadway musicals.. Good poetry and good lyrics are the spontaneous and powerful overflow of  powerful feelings. Poetry is simply  a beautiful way of saying things,  Bad poetry is obscure, arcane, and inaccessible.
In my opinion, there is a renaissance of poetry and spirituality. The two  are closely linked.   Last Sunday,  Richard Blanco was highlighted on CBS’s Sunday morning show.  The TV  Bible Stories, just concluded,   have achieved record market share.  PBS regularly features poets.  And, of course, this new Pope Francis , with his message of simplicity,  has attracted worldwide attention.   There’s a hunger out there for what life means, and poetry and religion  are potent vehicles for satisfying that hunger.
I have found poetry,  or perhaps I should say rhyming verse, allows me to say what I want to say in a few words, to get to the nub of a blog,  to cut through the tangles of  a complex subject with grace, humor, and brevity.  As my favorite limerick goes,  seek brevity, with a touch of levity, in short be terse, for nothing is worse, than verbal longevity,
Poetry, I maintain,  has a  place in medicine.  That is what I tried to say in my first book Physicians, Parodies & Poems in a series of books New Voice of Health Reform:  the 3Rs- Rhyme, Rhetoric Reality.   You may order that first book, which sells for $12.50, at 203-245-3959, or at rjulia@ondmeandbooks.com.

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