Recently, someone called me a poet. The very idea gave me pause to ponder the possibility. What is a poet, exactly? And -- more importantly -- what is poetry?
The way I see it, the world around us is filled with poetry. As Percival said -- "The air is living with its spirit; and the waves dance to the music of its melodies and sparkle and shine in its brightness."
I think it is at once fully strength and joy and weakness and sadness; the giving forth or heartfelt truth.
Poetry is a bonding of thoughts that breathe and words that burn. It makes us wiser and better, and it reveals great truths we might otherwise have missed. It can be akin to sorrow; every soul that suffers and weeps is a poet, just as "every tear is a verse and every heart a poem."
It has caused me, throughout all my years, to seek to discover the good and wonderful and beautiful in all I have come in contact with and all that surrounds me. Once discovered, those wonders and beauties have become part of my heart and life, and have been stamped into paper with ink so the read might share the experience.
It has been reported that Oliver Wendell Holmes once said poets are "never young in one sense. Their delicate ears hear the far off whispers of eternity, which coarser souls must travel toward for scores of years before their dull sense is touched by them." They have their own way -- these "poets" -- not philosophical or religious or scientific, of knowing the world and inviting the reader to know the world in similar fashion.
I believe lyricists may well be the unsung poets of our day. Like poets of old, they may learn in suffering what they teach in song, oft-times coming nearer to truth than history itself. Truth, it has been said, shines brightest clad in verse. Through popular music we hear the heart beat of a nation -- especially its youth. And that heart has been beating strong through the several decades of my memory.
What were the early songs of Bob Dylan and Roger McGuinn and Graham Nash if not poetry set to music? What about the works of Joan Baez, Harry Chapin, Jesse Collin Young and Carole King; of Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Mickey Newbury? Was it not all poetry?
And what about the Psalms of King David and his contemporaries?
Christianity has its modern day poets as well. Folks like Randy Stonehill, Michael Card, Wes King, and the late Keith Green and Mark Heard, to name a few. The latter once wrote the brilliant piece titled "Worry Too Much." The lines of the song spoke what many of our own hearts feel from time to time. ... "It's the quick-step march of history; it's the vanity of nations; it's knowing there'll be no muffled drums to mark the passing of our generation."
I don't usually use a lot of quotes when I write, but I think I'll close with just one more quote, this time from William Ellery Channing, and American clergyman who lived from 1780 to 1842. Rev. Channing said:
"Poetry reveals to us the loveliness of nature, brings us back the freshness of youthful feeling, revives the relish of simple pleasures, keeps unquenched the enthusiasm which warmed the springtime of our being, refines youthful love, strengthens our interest in mankind by vivid delineations of its tenderest and softest feelings, and, through the brightness of its prophetic visions, helps faith lay hold on the future life."
So ... Call me a poet if you must. I'll be in some great company.