THE POWER OF POETRY

POWER OF POETRY #100: BRIAN S. ELLIS

Poetry is the first. It is from poetry that the universe is made. From poetry existence is a sub-genre. First poetry, and then from poetry music. From music, dance, from dance, religion, and so on. Poetry contains all of it. 

What does that big poetry have to do with the little poetry, all of our poems about the everyday? The poems about soup and cats and Netflix and how hard it is to put on eyeliner? These poems are seeds that will one day grow into religions, cultures, planets, multiverses. Snowballs that become avalanches. Science copies poetry in that there are no big breakthroughs, just little steps being made everywhere all the time. Poets belong to an invisible psychic neural network, where inspiration breeds inspiration, where one breakthrough follows another.

When I was twenty-three years old, I was living in my car, working at the retail chain Filene’s in the six months before they went out of business, washing and getting dressed each day in the bathroom of a Panera. For years I had been dreaming and wishing to be a writer, keeping my writing mostly to myself and a few trusted friends and lovers, not understanding I already was a writer. 

It was then I read a book called, Poetry, Language, Thought, a collection of Heidegger’s lectures and essays. In the essay, “The Origin of the Work of Art” Heidegger writes,

​“the nature of art is poetry. The nature of poetry, in turn, is the founding of truth.”

To paraphrase: Poetry is Truth, set to work. This is why when we see a dancer whose movements make us blush, we say, that is poetry. This is why when an athlete overcomes all odds, we say, that is poetry. Poetry is an open place, where everything is other than usual, where the World can come into Being.

When I read this, I knew I wanted to make poetry my work. Once I understood it as work, my life began to transform. I made poetry my work, and I was changed forever.


Brian S. Ellis is the author of four volumes of poetry, the most recent of which is Often Go Awry from University of Hell Press.

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