Poetry is one of the few forms of power that doesn’t corrupt.
It is the power of the word, the line, the image. It is often a delicate, intimate, bare depiction of a writer’s thoughts. Poetry is soul-deep. Poetry can ring a reader’s bell in a single sentence. It can turn a blank canvas into anything imaginable in a split second. A vibrant, rich, spice-filled market place. Good poetry makes you smell it. A terrifying thunderclap above a raging ocean. Good poetry makes you fear it. A place of quiet, tranquil, calm reflection. Good poetry puts you right inside it. Anything, anywhere, anyhow. There are no rules.
Poetry is music. It is rhythmic, searing, expressive, haunting. It can shape our mood, inspire us, alarm us, inform us, awaken us to the surreal, displace our blinkered notions, expose hidden worlds of thinking, and sharpen our senses. Poetry has always gripped me because it is an unquantifiable mystery that holds no more answers than it does questions. It is a totally, unique, exclusive, mystifying use of our delicate language. Poetry explores the predicament of our existence whilst leaving the door open for a reader to participate its creation of meaning. It makes connections between disparate fragments, offers wonderment and clarity, and can penetrate the depths of human relationships without so much as saying so.
Poetry can marry melancholy and mischief, rain and shine, destruction and resolution. It is such a curious art-form that often reflects the eccentricities of those who write and indulge in it. The use of language in this way can be profound, sexy, painful, joyous, demanding … all of the things that spark something within the human heart that cannot be ignored.
I was at once drawn to the incredibly natural, unflinchingly brutal work of Charles Bukowski when I discovered it as a teen in the late 90’s. It wasn’t so much that he was a fearsome icon of counterculture that drew me in; more so that his ale-stained, street-tough, uncompromising tone forged possibilities within the discipline never before thought worthy.
Another writer that dealt with the human condition in a much softer, but equally as penetrative sense, was Lee Harwood. A master-craftsman of moving, often erotic, unembellished telling, whose fragmented river of consciousness bewitched me no-end. I’ve read, and took solace in Maya Angelou, Allen Ginsberg, Theresa Lola, Leonard Cohen, Andrew McMillan, and a whole roster of indie authors who ply their trades within international writing communities. It is a language that speaks to me, and does so vociferously.
Reading poetry inspires me to write, which in turn motivates me to read. It is the wheel that goes around and around for me, and drives me towards my next collection.
Bukowski put me on this hallowed path, and for that I’ll never forgive him or thank him enough. The bastard.
Paul Robert Mullen is a poet, musician, lecturer, radio presenter, traveller and sociable loner from Liverpool, U.K. He has four published poetry collections: curse this blue raincoat (2017), testimony (2018), 35 (2018) and disintegration (2020). He is widely published in magazines worldwide. Paul is the co-founder and editor of The Broken Spine Artist Collective.