THE POWER OF POETRY

POWER OF POETRY #99: MATÉ JARAI

Very few of my friends ‘get’ poetry. They’ll ask me, ‘Are you working on a new book?’ And I’ll tell them, ‘Yes, but it’s a poetry collection.’ A lot of them might nod blankly and pretend to be interested, but I know I’ve lost them by this point. Some of my closer friends might even say it straight up,lay it down a little more brutally, ‘I don’t get poetry. Sorry.’ I tell them it’s fine. I never try to justify its importance. I never preach or try to convince them that they are wrong. Usually I shrug and say, ‘A lot of people don’t get poetry.’ Then theymight ask me, ‘So why do you do it?’ And I always say the same thing. First and foremost, I do it for me. If anyone else appreciates it, hell yes. But fundamentally poetry is my therapy. 

I remember sitting in school. I was twelve years old and we were studying ‘poetry from other cultures’. I can recall a certain poem about an exploding water fountain in a desolate village, though I can’t remember its title or author. It was about ‘the value of water’. I remember thinking, ‘What is this? It doesn’t even rhyme like One Fish Two Fish. At least that rhymed. There’s no story. Poetry sucks.’

It wasn’t until a few later that I finally ‘got it.’ I think it was Bluebird by Bukowski, or Butterflies, or perhaps both of them. I was a teenager and I was heartbroken. I read those poems online somewhere. A good friend of mine had introduced me to Bukowski but I’d only read his novels up until that point. In reading his poems, through his emotions,pain and suffering, I understood more of myself and I felt better. So, I wrote some poems of my own. I read them back. They weren’t good at all, but I felt good. 

Poetry is confession for the Godless. If my mind is a fury, if I can’t make sense of my own feelings, I scribble or I type, and whatever comes out, ‘quality’ doesn’t matter, it’s real and it’s there. It exists. Nothing can take it away. I feel better every time. And sometimes, if I’m lucky, the poems might even work a little, nice sounding, with rhythm and pulse. Everyone has their weapon of choice with which to face this bastard of a world, because, man, it’s hard. And poetry is mine.

I try to be an honest person in life. In fact, it’s wrong to say ‘I try’. I can’t really help it. I say what I think and I act as I feel, within reason, of course. But through my poems I can lay it all out there. My secrets, my pains, my ideas, big or small, my madness and my clarity, my victories and my biggest falls.They’re all there on the page. My poems are a diary that those who don’t know me could never understand. And yet, from those words, they might take something of value, I hope. And what they take is no less authentic than the ideas or feelings that conceived the poem in the first place.

I read poetry to feel something. I write poetry when I feel something, so that when others read my words, they might feel something too. It’s about universal feeling, transcendence of feeling, from one human to another. That’s all we are. We share this planet, at least for now, so we might as well share a little feeling, a little confession, a little soul with each other, from time to time.


Maté Jarai is a writer/poet from Budapest Hungary. He has a PhD in Creative Writing from Southampton University and is Editor-in-Chief at Cephalopress. He’s the author of three poetry collections, If We Open Our Eyes the Floods Won’t End So Let’s Not Do That, Instrumentals and the recently released Live Authentic Die Far Away. For more info see http://www.iamwendle.com/books and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @matejarai

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