Thursday, March 24, 2016

True Poetry Opposes Racism

I still remember the first time I read a lecture (transcribed) by Eli Siegel, the founder of Aesthetic Realism. His words, and the principles behind them, had me understand myself for the first time in my life. And what also amazed me was that he used poetry and literature to understand the human self. I thought it was beautiful and kind that the great art of the world was seen as throwing real, logical light onto our questions, uncertainty, confusion. 

Then there is the poetry of Eli Siegel himself. Beginning with his 1925 prize-winning "Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana," there was a depth of seeing people and the world that was new. About it, William Carlos Williams wrote, "I say definitely that that single poem, out of a thousand others written in the past quarter century, secures our place in the cultural world." 

That Aesthetic Realism understanding of poetry and life is implicit in a more recent poem I care for, by Ellen Reiss.* Even though from one point of view it's not about racism, - not overtly anyway - it has such deep and sensitive feeling, and insight, into what it means to be a human being, that I'm linking to it from this blog. As you read it you can ask, could this be describing a person of any race, any background? We feel, this is a person, a self. And after all, you can't get much more multiethnic than the New York she is writing about! 

This is the beginning of the poem "Welcome Your Confusion as a Guest," by Ellen Reiss

"Walk swiftly in the wet November day, 
 On the sidewalk that is pink from the sun, 
 Somewhere in New York. 
 Watch puddles tremble in the street 
 As the cars move over them. 
 You hold your jacket tight around you,--
 It is soft and warm against your body 
 And the wind is cold across your cheeks..."

Read the whole poem here.

And you can see the poem read aloud as the narrative for a video created by Georgie James here. 
*Ellen Reiss is the Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education and editor of the The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.