You might have spent time with Homer, Poe, Plath, Ginsberg or Gibran and I personally applaud you if you are conversant with their work. Great poets should inspire us to reach deeper within ourselves and seek the mystery of the words behind their words, so that when we not only read their poetry, the words take on a life of their own and become words to live by. We become better people as a result. They provide an argosy that we can continuously drink deep from in moments that we are unable to describe or find ineffable whether hard times or celebratory moments.
Universal themes that are not bound by time but experienced by each of us in this moment transcend and transform our thinking. Whatever your belief system, race color or creed. These poets speak a universal language of the soul.
When we read their words, they have the power to change, inspire and influence our perception and outlook on life.
As a culture, we do not read enough poetry. You’re missing out if you don’t, but it is never too late to start.
It would be impossible to narrow done my personal list of poets,
however these poets 5 poets are my personal favorites.
#1 William Blake (1757- 1827)
A true eccentric, William Blake was a poet, painter, engraver and printer. Only Dante comes to mind as an equal when we combine the rarity of the gifted poet/painter combination. The 60s and beatniks tuned into Blake’s message and found his “Doors of Perception.” Aldous Huxley and Jim Morrison tapped Blake’s wealth of words and themes of transcendence.
Blake felt that he must create a system or be enslaved by another mans. He took this to the extent of creating his own mythology.
Blake will improve your vision with rich metaphors and symbolism.
WITHOUT CONTRARIES IS NO PROGRESSION
We live in a world that seems to be in constant conflict. However, through Blake’s Marriage of Heaven & Hell, we begin to see that “without contraries is no progression.” Attraction and repulsion. Reason and energy, love and hate are necessary to human existence.
Only struggle results in change. This is a hard concept to grasp, but how can it be any other way. Everything from opinions to laws and forces of nature help us progress. Some problems are not ours to fix, in fact when we watch our crazy world go by we might agree that:
To quote Blake: Opposition is true friendship.
A true rebel that teaches us to see heaven in a wildflower.
#2 T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
He wrote about disillusionment of his era and the uncertainty of years to come. Disassociation with surroundings and city life uncertain which still surrounds us today and will every generation to come.
You must read The Wasteland.
HOLLOW MEN & WASTE LANDS
The dead tree gives no shelter,
The cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water.
Only there is shadow under this red rock.
Here Eliot shows us “fear in a handful of dust.”
We are the hollow men,
We are the stuffed men,
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
#3 Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
Walt Whitman broke the mold and conventional poetry with Leaves of Grass. Why Whitman still matters is the way in which he reflected his world. If you read Leaves of Grass you will notice that Whitman gives us hope and optimism in every verse…
Here Whitman gives us a gift.
THE OTHER I AM
“I believe in you my soul, the other I am must not abase itself of you. And you must not be abased to the other.”
“I cannot understand the mystery, but I am always conscious of it myself as two—as my soul and I Celebrate yourself.
Remember this great line:
“I swear the earth shall surely be complete to him or her who shall be complete.
The earth remains jagged and broken only to him or her who remains jagged and broken.”
#4 Kenneth Rexroth
Considered the “father of the Beats,” Rexroth is not referenced enough. Sure we know Kerouac and Ginsberb whose names are synonymous with the Beat Generation. But Rexroth’s style. Rexroth teaches us the Universalization of the human soul and the creation of the true person.
THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS
What is substance?
Our Substance is whatever we feed our angel.
The perfect incense for worship
Is camphor, whose flames leave no ashes.
Loneliness, speak to me.
Talk to me. Break the black silence.
Speak of a tree full of leaves.
Of a flying bird, the new moon in the sunset,
A poem, a book, a person…”
# Charles Bukowski
Buk lived a hard life and was a late bloomer. He appeals to the working man/woman who feels and lives the classic “quiet lives of desperation.” He spoke in layman’s terms. No pretensions. Easy to read, but hard to forget.
Consider these great lines:
LET THE BLUEBIRD IN YOUR HEART OUT
… and to walk across the floor
To an old dresser with a cracked mirror
See myself, ugly,
Grinning at it all.
What matters most is
How well you walk through the fire.
Like the fox,
I run with the hunted
And I am not the happiest man on earth
I’m surely the luckiest man alive
There is a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out
But I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going to let anybody see you..”
These 5 poets challenge us and our perceptions of the world around us. You will see the world in a different way after reading them. They will improve your perceptions and outlook if you take the time to apply them.