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The importance of poetry, and truth

owl and fall foliage

My poet and musician friend Dave Morrison of Camden, Maine recently published a book of poems about his battle with cancer. I was happy to write a blurb for it because I am a big fan of his work. He is honest, never pretentious or opaque and manages to find humor in the most unlikely situations. To me telling the truth in poetry is all-important, as it almost always is in life. If I can’t ascertain truth in a poem, it does nothing for me. So that means that clever word play or beautiful images are not enough, except perhaps in ancient forms like haiku. (What one likes in poetry is subjective, of course. My own taste leans toward narrative poems, “accessible” (meaning understandable) poems, and poems that are not afraid to be humorous. This is not to say that I don’t appreciate other kinds of poetry, too.) ¬†Campbell McGrath puts it so well: “That’s all we have in poetry land: the truth. We are not well paid, and we are not respected in our land or time, but we can tell the truth. We don’t have to accede to the hypocrisies and half-truths that surround us. We are not driven by a market economy whose rewards bend and corrupt us. That’s a great gift and worth the economic tradeoff.” I try to keep that in mind as I struggle to keep my small poetry press afloat. Dear friends, consider buying poetry books for holiday presents this year; support some poets and help spread some truth.