poet as lifeologist

In today’s writer’s almanac, there was a quote from Babette Deutsch that read:

The poet, like the lover, is a person unable to reconcile what he knows with what he feels. His peculiarity is that he is under a certain compulsion to do so.

This is actually very similar to another quote from her that I already had in my collection:

Poetry is important. No less than science, it seeks a hold upon reality, and the closeness of its approach is the test of its success.

I have always thought this to be true. The poet’s job is often to bottle or catalogue emotion. It is interesting to note that I don’t really practice what I preach… in other words that I do this remarkably poorly. Most of my poems are really just wordplaying buffoonery. I don’t even bother throwing in a dead housepet or lost pair of shoes. (OK, I may have one poem about a lost pair of shoes. Maybe.) Anyway, most of my poems are light and fluffy. But still, maybe they capture a hint of what it means to be me.

But it’s really more the philosophy of the above statements that I try to live by. I am someone who wants to know WHY I have all the thoughts and emotions that I do. I want to trace down my grumpiness on any given afternoon to the midnight snack I had the night before. Or perhaps more commonly find the reason behind a particular jealousy or relationship aggravation. I live by this idea so much that it’s not uncommon for me to get frustrated at other people when they don’t share this same philosophy. If someone doesn’t know why they feel the way I do, my typical response is to berate them for not thinking about it sooner. And goad them into spending some time thinking about it.

A poet is a scientist in the study of his or her own life. Science begins and ends with observation, but along the way one must hypothesize and theorize and test ones own life to find consistency. To find conclusion. To find meaning.

I don’t really have any particularly startling discoveries today, but I’m going to find some poems by Babette Deutsch, and maybe I can share in some of hers.