The following is excerpted from The Poetry Deal by Diane di Prima, published by City Lights.

Poetry can bring joy, it can ease grief. It bridges different worlds & myriad cultures.

Poetry can bring rain & make the crops grow. It smoothes the path for the traveler and brings sleep to the feverish child.

Poetry is our heart’s cry and our heart’s ease. It constantly renews our seeing: so we can speak the constantly changing Truth.

Poets speak truth when no one else can or will. That’s why the hunger for poetry grows when the world grows dark. When repression grows, when people speak in whispers or not at all, they turn to poetry to find out what’s going on.

Poetry holds the tale of the tribe—of each and every tribe, so when we hear it, we can hear each other, begin to know where we came from.

We write poetry to remember, and sometimes we write poetry to forget. But hidden in our forgetting, encoded there, is our remembering—our secrets.

Poetry holds paradox without striving to solve anything.

Sometimes it speaks the unspeakable.

Always the stream of language points backward toward its source. Toward the moment before speech: headwaters of the river of language that streams through unfolding worlds.

The poem can be ritual or dance, prayer or dirge. It is music, story, riddle, lullaby. Song, spell, enchantment. Hex or blessing. Serenade or reverie. There is nowhere it can’t go, nothing the poem
can’t be.

The poem is dream and dreamer intertwined. It remakes language in the act of being writ. Mind and tongue, breath and mark. Papyrus, clay, paper, cyber-bit and byte.

When spoken, the poem cuts a shape in time, when written it forms itself in space. It often dwells there in paper or parchment before you pick up your pen. At those times all you have to do is trace what is hidden in the page. At other times you may hear the poem broadcast, spoken like a radio in your head & you can write it down like taking dictation.

And yet it is always, inevitably, rooted in our flesh—the very flesh of the poet who writes or types: Music begins to atrophy when it gets too far from the dance. Poetry begins to atrophy when it gets too far from music, a great poet observed. The poem is our breath, our heartbeat.

Poetry brings us together, helps us know one another. It bridges time as well as space—we can glimpse the worlds of

Whoso list to hunt I know where is an hind. . .

Darkling I listen, and for many a time

I have been half in love with easeful Death. . .

though those worlds are long gone. Just as we can read the poetry of a contemporary thousands of miles away and feel transported to that place, feel that soil, that sun.

At a reading for the Sandinistas long ago, my son Rudi said: All artists are warriors, aren’t they, Mom? That’s because there’s so many parts to art.





Image by Erich Ferdinand, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

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