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Modern Poetry And Orality

Por: Dariusz Tomasz Lebioda

In a real sense, poetry sums up poet own life’s experience and his approach to the nature of existence, and in doing so, he exhibits the deep contemplation of a philosophical observer of human attitudes, rituals, ceremonies and behavior. First poetry was orality ceremony, and thought and verbal expression in societies where the technologies of literacy (writing and print) were unfamiliar to most of the population. In the midst of a fast-moving, civilized world, in the barrage of information and sensations, he dwells over a detail and the structure of events. And all this is to enable him to realize that happiness is in the natural world, in the plain and in the simple. Such a conscious and interactive participation in the rhythms of reality becomes the key to knowledge and aligns the elements, placing being at the level of a stream and connecting it to the whole of nature. Nature has it all aligned, proceeding from growth to decline, from initiation to the final denouement of the cycle. In human life it is crucial to reach such a stage of awareness, a state of mind that reveals in the contour of a single life`s fate the fate of many different lives, a sensibility that reveals a vision of essential humanity. Poet explores his surroundings through his poems and language, reaching deeply into many dimensions, entering secret places and mysterious passageways. Such places are visible but remain unnoticed by many people, hidden under a cloak of sense impressions, revealing themselves, just for a moment, in the gleam of autor’s gaze. In everyday scenes, poems convey natural beauty in all its aspects and dimensions. He opens himself to the beauty of the world and absorbs it like the clear mountain air and the flow of a creek. The course of his life experience brought him to a unique sense of mission, one born of a keen sense of observation and a poignant sensitivity.  His sense observations and depth of thoughtfulness produce amazing effects, creating a naturalistic and metaphysical poetry, a verbal art that reveals in every word the truth of the human condition, recognizing and comprehending  the texts of surrounding reality. 

Poet perceives decline and oblivion in the fate of the world, but he also advances a refined sense of the possibility of revitalization. Thus, however frightening the observed condition of a solitary house in winter might seem, the poet sees hope for renewal, for a brand new beginning.  This is an image of both a real and a surreal world, suggesting a dreamlike atmosphere through a haunting phantasm. It is uniquely both an image drawn from 17th Century Flemish painting and an evocation of Dali’s surreal visions, giving the impression of a view through two opposing mirrors, one of Braque and one of Klimt. One view is of impending disintegration; the other suggests an attempt to marshal the details into a composition of supreme wholeness. The anxiety is authentic, coming upon the reader all of a sudden, temporarily closing the door and throwing the lock, distancing itself and freezing into a symbolic pose. How many such houses have been built since the beginning of time; how many human beings have such an emotional investment in them; how many people ever succeeded in building even a single wall? The poet emphasizes the vital sheltering function of a house, with all its warmth and safety, but he also points to dangers -- pervasive decay and the fragility of its structural elements, special private orality. Everything lasts for just a while. Everything is tending toward disintegration, and what man manages to determine with his mind, and what he holds fast with iron and cement, is also subject to a host of accidental events with an obvious ending. What grows up high and blossoms, a house or a human being, has the same destiny, and the earth engulfs everything, leveling it all, wiping out any trace of anything ever having been there, everything subject to the pain of the passing away of time in eternal entropy. A distinctive characteristic of poet’s outlook is a sense of emptiness and a certain conviction that nothingness is innate in each being, a fact of each creature’s destiny, with inertia and a dead silence waiting at the end of the trail of human life. Nobody is capable of escaping his fate, the cycle of living and falling to ashes, as these are the elemental laws inculcated in the structure of the universe.  A poet feels a human being should be able to enjoy his life, taking advantage of all the blessings of nature, but should perceive his fleeting and transitory nature, understanding the arithmetic of the years passed and the years to come. He is a poet of astonishing ontological depth, focusing on simple things and ordinary events. He is a philosopher of the quotidian, constantly seeking reconciliation with nature. He prefers to contemplate his surroundings and the flow of a stream, to shut himself off in a cabin rather than challenge the evanescence of things and rebel against the order and direction of existence. Back in history, a Polish poet, Cyprian Norwid, pointed out that humanity is not in the position to conquer eternity and evade the path leading to the grave.

In majestic and straightforward lyricism you can recognize the poet`s immersion in the world and its polyphony, its depth and its immediacy. Several poems – from orality to literacy – disclose the subtle workings of his mind, telling much more about the world than any other descriptions or explanations could. This is the self which tries to imitate the world`s harmony and order, not overlooking the slightest glint of its beauty, mystery, its perennial flow of dark and bright impulses, the constant give-and-take. For poet, the very world itself is an alchemical process, and there is a constant, cyclic refinement of lightness and darkness, silver and gold, the Moon and the Sun. However, the cauldron of all the processes is the dynamic consciousness of the poet, where everything boils, changes its consistency and undergoes vital mental metamorphoses. This happens on a personal basis as well as within the amazingly great mind of mankind. It is both individual and universal, immortal and eternal; light and dark, vivid form and formlessness, all this has been ordained for earthly being and becomes a sense of final restraint. This is the framework and range of being`s vibrations and the peaks it wants to scale. As in Rembrandt`s painting of a girl leaning over the picture`s frame and reaching out towards us, poetic vision, and he himself, are reaching out to eternity, contemplating and touching the enormous breadth of human experience with lyrical intensity. You can see the will to understand oneself; to try to add to the history of the earth’s peoples over the centuries a scrap of one’s own fortune as an integral and substantial part. For real poet it was extremely important to cut himself off from the world in a remote place, but this confinement lies deeply inside him as well, somewhere underneath the surface, at the center of his profound lyrical awareness.  This isolation can be singled out, stopped as in a film frame and clearly seen in the mirror of this poem. Our earthly life is not free from existential anxiety, which appears all of a sudden, turning our careful plans to ruins. Especially in the breathtaking mountains, like in Central Africa, in solitude like in Tibet, set against the monumentality of nature, we perceive our insignificance and the transitory nature of once–thought certainties and attempts to tame the natural elements. Being in the mountains, experiencing the mist and glow of daily twilight, poet takes the opportunity to contemplate the beauty and purity of his surroundings, contemplate language in first oral form. But these are only passing moments. The thoughts and memories, his poetic reflection, must be written down, transmitted and retained in the minds of other generations. Beauty challenges decay and gives an illusory sense of stability and permanence; but the fallen branches of trees buffeted by the wind  keep reminding him of what is imminent – the inescapability of the beginning and ending of all things over time, of birth and death, of temporary union and looming separation. Thus, there is good reason for the poet to confirm the observations of a painter of the finalities like Vermeer.  Affirmative statement is a compelling demonstration of the notion of balance at the heart of the poem, the kind of balance that appears in the consciousness of an artistic creator and that of a child. Passing through the world and contemplating all its phenomena, poet realizes his connection to the great painter`s presentation of a kind of suspended gaze balanced at the edge of understanding. Back at that time and now, beauty and the sense of stopping time are reflected in the eyes of the poet and the artist who feel and see more than what others see.

The poetry of real life is a struggle to describe and render the world in its momentary transformations and in its cyclical stabilities, but it is also a commentary on his own way of life and the life of mankind. Nobody has ever gone beyond the human condition and ever will, and our consciousness will always be deeply rooted in birth, growth and the ultimate wasting away of a feeble, emaciated and suffering human body. Accepting his corporeal condition, man must live in harmony with the laws of the whole of nature.  He protects himself from cold, frost, and rain,  shelters  himself  in a house or a small cottage, provides himself with food and drink – all this only to be able to reflect for a while upon himself and the time allotted for him, and to reflect upon the fortune of others in their beginnings and endings, and take part in some final sale of language. Poet like a Heaney, like a Adonis, like a Ai Qing, achieves amazing effects by combining in his lyricism the delight and admiration of natural beauty with primeval eschatological realizations.  Here he is akin to authors such as Edgar Lee Masters and Carl Sandburg, and there is also something in common with Billy Collins`s touch of lightness and sense of transitoriness.  Collins claims that poetry should be an important and integral part of our everyday life, and orality of poems should inspire people to think about the human condition and their belonging to the human race, renewing the world with new dimensions of perception. In real poet`s case, we need to mention  the prominence of epiphany, which reveals to us the beauty and charm of everyday surroundings, but at the same time does not overlook human entanglements and dependencies. Death and finality describe life to the fullest; emptiness and nothingness best sum up what is the content of our days. The passing of a person points to the inevitability and imminence of human destiny. So poet like a Transtroemer looks to the lessons of his and other lives, and to the etchings of a stream running in front of his poetical cabin to reveal the true (orality) innate structure of the world, and the symbolic closing of a book becomes a real dot at the end of the original sentence. His mind soars high above the world, and he is suspended somewhere in non-being and endlessness trying to synthesize and integrate all into one. Poet like Soyinka, like a Herbert creates a vision of endless unity and endless separation, and all the time he keeps on dreaming, never losing beauty of language and never dying. Although he gives up a part of himself every moment… he does not pass away… he lives on in the revelation of his words, like a revealing first shaman.

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Dariusz Tomasz Lebioda Ph. D. – Polish poet, writer, literature professor, translator, editor was born in Bydgoszcz, Poland in 1958. He is the author of more than eighty books of poetry, short stories, novels, diaries, essays, scientific monographs of European romantic poets, contemporary Polish poets (Miłosz, Herbert, Szymborskas, Różewicz) and world novelists (Faulkner, Caldwell, Golding, Singer, Murdoch, Pahmuk, Coetzee, Naipaul, Lessing, Le Clézio). He is the winner of a lot of Polish literary prizes: that of Andrzej Bursa’s Award, Stanisław Wyspiański’s Award, UNESCO Prize of International Day of Poetry, Ianicius Award and Bruno’s Award. He is the leading poet of the New Generations in Poland– poets born between 1950 and 1960. His books have been translated into many languages – English, French, German, Spanish, Armenian, Arabic, Russian, Chinese and many more. From year 2015, he is the President of European Medal Of Poetry And Art – HOMER.

Última actualización: 23/04/2019