Highest Form of Art?
When I was in college, there was no Internet, which made for a different creative process. When I was creating, I was also researching, cross-referencing and synthesizing. That meant numerous trips to the library, where I’d stay all day. It meant satchels full of borrowed books and folders stuffed with photocopies and notes. Then it would be a matter of sitting, reading and ordering source materials before taking up a physical pen to write my first word on the intimidating blank sheet of paper before me.
At least I had access to a modern library. As I imagined Milton, Shakespeare, Keats, Dickinson, Poe, Hughes, Angelou and the detail of the processes they developed to construct poetry, it was not difficult for me to believe English professors who insisted that poetry was “the highest form of art.”
Yet what exactly is poetry as a form? Many prose writers call themselves “poets,” and that has always vexed me, since in my old-fashioned mind, poets are writers of poetry. Prose is written or spoken language in its ordinary form, without metrical structure, whereas poetry is “a form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and meter—to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning.”
In other words, poetry is the tortured cousin of prose, imprisoned by form. But why would poetry be the highest form of art? The best argument is provided by neuroscience researchers, notably in a 2015 University of Liverpool study about how reading and writing poetry affects the brain. I am still amazed at how poets through time have taken stories, ideas, musings and arguments and expressed them artfully within the confines of poetic form.
It’s easier now, as we have all the recorded knowledge in the world seconds away and literally at our fingertips in smart phones. And other art forms have emerged. One could make a good argument that film is currently the highest form of art, synthesizing and combining, visual, music, dramatic, allegory, humorous, ironic, sound, satire, prose, poetry and other creative forms into some meaningful work that affects the mind beyond personal experience and into individual lives.
My earliest writings were poor attempts at poetry, but they were learning experiences. In 8th grade, I wrote my first poem, Black Is Me, which I will include here if I can find it again. As a high school sophomore, I wrote a prosaic piece for the Elk Grove High School newspaper called A Force to Content With, which in first-person was “ prejudice personified. ” Over the next four years, I wrote quite a bit of prose, which I thought was poetry.
Professor Paul McGinnis, my favorite English professor, inspired me to really examine poets and poetry, and after exhaustive research and practice, I began to write actual poetry. I took to iambic meter – so much so that it altered my very thinking. Even now, most of my inner thoughts are expressed in iambic verse. Two Matadors (circa 54,000 words), perhaps my most intense work, is told completely in iambic verse.
While in college, I began on The Love Tragedies, a series of parables about love and life, set in iambic meter, of which perhaps 5 or 6 are extant. These include For Those Who’ve Taken Bad Advice, The Man Who Wore a Splendid Coat of Black, The Man Who Dared to Think, The Poet Sings and The Crab Story. Those stories led to playwriting, which led to short stories, then novels and eventually film.
Please take the time to explore my artistic journey, from poetry to film, on this tab, and please share your work with me. It’s all about connecting with each other!