World Poetry Day 2012

In the UK today the Chancellor of the Exchequer is delivering his budget. Meanwhile, in France the police seize a man suspected of murdering Jewish children at point blank range and in Belgium they are mourning the children killed in a coach crash last week.Wouldn’t this be the moment for the poet to cough politely, make his excuses, and exit stage left?

Absolutely not, as Irina Bokova, Unesco Secretary General, observes, poetry is part of what makes us human.‘Poetry is also the place where the profound link between cultural diversity and linguistic diversity is forged. The language of poetry, with its sounds, metaphors and grammar, stands as a barrier against the deterioration of the world’s languages and cultures.’ With the world in all kinds of pain, we need the gifts of the poet more than ever.The poet’s task is not only to articulate the pain, but to sketch out, like the faintest of pencil lines on a canvas, the possibilities of how life might be beyond it.

I am a huge fan of Walter Brueggemann’s writing, His grasp of the language of poetry and prophecy, together with his ability to challenge the zeitgeist, make him one of the finest theological minds on the planet. At the outset of his book Finally Comes the Poet, he reproduces thes words from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, written in 1855 . On World Poetry Day I pass them onto you:

After all the seas are crossed (as they seem already crossed)

After the great captains and engineers have accomplished all their work,

After the noble inventors, the scientists, the chemist, the geologist, ethnologist,

Finally shall come the poet worthy of that name