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    Cultural Identity (what defines us?)

    The Language of Less

    Debbie Ouellet  |  29.Oct.09

    "The impulse to enter, with other humans, through language, into the order and disorder of the world,
    is poetic at its root as surely as it is political at its root"
    - POET Adrienne Rich In "What Is Found There"

    Throughout history, poets and the language they employ in their metrical conversations with the world have reflected the mood and pulse of their culture. How could they not? Language itself is the first element of culture that defines a people.

    Ezra Pound once said, “Poets are the antennae of the race.” Recently, in the wake of the economic upheaval that has rocked North America, I’ve seen a subtle shift in poetry posted on on-line boards. Though these, admittedly, are not always the best example of the highest caliber of poetry offered, they are most certainly the most immediate and reflective of the mindset of our world. Within these poems, I’ve found the natural responses of anger and outrage: the poet as manifestation of the people's reaction to being caught off-guard and unprepared. And there is always the jester with their poetic parody in all its irreverence. In amongst these rants and raves, however, I’ve noticed poetry with a recurring softness, a return to simpler images and rounded edges. There has been the resurgence of, if not a happy ending, a hopeful one.


    "The impulse to enter, with other humans, through language, into the order and disorder of the world,
    is poetic at its root as surely as it is political at its root"

    - POET Adrienne Rich In "What Is Found There"

    It’s an interesting contradiction to the barrage of doom and gloom that shouts at us from the headlines in the daily news. These opposing messages beg the question: Are poets simply dreamers tipping at windmills, or are they tuned in to some cosmic thread of enlightenment that escapes the money minds of the world? I’m inclined to believe the latter. Something bigger than the sum of all events is at work here.

    A set of unrelated events, or a cosmic correctional shift?: Until recently, the North American population has often referred to itself as ‘consumers’. We happily spoke of ‘disposable income’ and ‘wealth management’. We flourished in a marketplace mentality where shopping was a favoured pastime and shopping malls were the meeting place of choice. Then, quite suddenly it seemed, supply and demand hit a brick wall. The strain we’d placed on our natural resources to feed our consumer lifestyles put this precious planet of ours at risk. On the brink of this realization, our economy plunged.

    Some would say that the bleak financial situation that most North Americans find themselves in today is simply a result of poor management and overconfidence. Or have we reached a tipping point? Is it coincidence that, just as the natural resources of this earth are at the verge of being tapped, that we find ourselves forced to tighten our belts and make do with less—a consumer society that can no longer afford to consume? Is this a simple financial glitch as the investors of the world would have us believe, or a universal reckoning: a last-ditch wake-up call for the world to take notice?


           The Poet Ezra Pound once said,
          “Poets are the antennae of the race.”

    When all the shimmying and shaking is done and the financial dust settles, how will a consumer culture cope? North America may well be poised on the cusp of a revelation: Owning less does not necessarily equate to having less. 

    There is an old saying: “Nothing improves a person’s prayer life like big trouble.” Or, as Michael Bernard Beckwith put it in his book, Spiritual Liberation, “A bad day for the ego is a good day for the soul.” Many will seek God, in whatever manifestation that rings true to their souls, to find answers. In this quest for answers, the end they search for can be summed up in one word. Hope.

    It's no coincidence that coverage of Barak Obama's win as the first black president of the United States and his inaugural speech was one of the biggest draws for TV viewers outside of the US. It is also the number one topic in poetry posted on on-line boards. Poised at a time when the world needs it most, Obama has positioned himself as a harbinger of hope.

    Poised For A Spiritual Revolution: The human race is a resilient beast. We do not go quiet into the night, but, in times of turmoil, return to the fundamental ties that have nurtured us for centuries: family, friends and a personal spirituality. When forced to pause in our whirlwind race to acquire the elusive ‘more’, how many will take stock of what they have, what they think they want and what they truly need? It is this need to question, this germ of possibility that has brought us to this tipping point. Put enough of us together, asking the same questions, forced to re-evaluate our system of values and you have the recipe for revolution.

    While some view the word ‘revolution’ as rebellion or dissent, it can also mean a shifting of power or beliefs. In a more literal sense, it means a turning. At the brink of this turning wheel, we, as a culture, stand poised for a spiritual revolution. Why this change, and why now? Perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, we are being offered a trade-off—a spiritual gift in exchange for the hard choices we must accept in order to save our world.

    The Creative Antennae: So, how is it that so many poets write of hope in a time of turmoil and uncertainty? Creativity requires a stillness, an inner quiet that allows the right-brain muse the freedom to simply be. When you tap into that place where poetry lives and breathes (or art, or music), you exercise that mental muscle, expand possibilities, open universal doors. What comes through those doors and where the messages come from remains the ultimate mystery. But the message is hope—a binding thread of consciousness that the poetic mind has tapped into. Contagious as a yawn, it is spreading and manifests itself into our literature. It may very well become the defining language of our times.


    Comments :

    1. Posted on 30.Oct.09   From: Donna Renee Anderson

    I believe poets sense the unseen and therefore obligated to write that sense, scratch it on paper, for their world to read and move through to a better understanding. We are court jester and revolutionary writing between the lines.

    2. Posted on 01.May.09   From: Joan Sutcliffe

    I like your suggestions and the literary style you have used to express them. Yes, I do feel that forces of karma are unravelling threads that we have sown into the tapestry of civilization, to play out the effects. And karma is also stirring creative minds to inspire hope and change.

    3. Posted on 01.May.09   From: Jean Burbidge

    I don't believe that economic/ ecological shift is fully shifted yet. It seems we are still trying to fix the old way instead of embracing a new way. Perhaps literature and especially poetry is the catalyst that will start us thinking in the new direction. That is where the hope comes in. We have been 'reawakened' can we now get out of bed and make a new day?

    4. Posted on 30.Apr.09   From: George Arnold

    I am of the belief that the seeds of the revolution have been germinating for some time. That said, I think you're positively correct that the economic, and ecological, factors have opened the door to our reawakening. Well, put, Debbie.

    5. Posted on 11.Apr.09   From: Siddiq

    I am amazed and tauched by the powerful media and it affacts I feel, and it is
    heartning to know they bring the truth and myth out in remarkable way

    The comments to this entry are closed.