Some say poetry predates literacy, but this is nothing we can prove. The oldest love poem we know of was written on a clay tablet ca. 2000 bc – The Epic of Gilgamesh. It’s a long poem, 11 tablets to be exact, and if you’re at all familiar with the storytelling of the old ages you know it’s some intricate and elaborate stuff. Often to do with challenges of gods and journeys longer than seasons. Which, is kinda still what life is like isn’t it?
As much as life has changed since then, it has also stayed the same. We’re still in pursuit of the same things, love, freedom and happiness. And just as they did back then, we also mourn, which brings me to my favorite part of the epic; when Gilgamesh after a great loss takes off on a journey to search for the secret to eternal life. On his journey he learns the following:
“Life, which you look for, you will never find. For when the gods created man, they let death be his share, and life withheld in their own hands”.
There is a fascination, a comfort and a joy in knowing that you can connect with anyone from any time and any place. Our human needs and our dreams are the same.
Obama was just in Oslo for a seminar and he spoke about people, and one of my favorite things he said was that people are people wherever you go. Culture and nationalities are beautiful, but we have hopes and dreams and weaknesses in common. We must never think that any one person is better than any other.
I believe poetry shows us this. I believe the connection we make when we feel others words is what heals us and helps us move through life.
There is a TED talk by Stephen Burt that is worth watching if you have ten minutes to spare on the topic of poetry, in which, amongst other things he shares this:
“poetry isn’t one thing that serves one purpose any more than music or computer programming serve one purpose. The Greek word poem, it just means ‘a made thing’, and poetry is a set of techniques, ways of making patterns that put emotions into words. The more techniques you know, the more things you can make, and the more patterns you can recognize in things you might already like or love.”
I love this, and at the same time I like to think that poetry isn’t limited to stanzas, limericks or sonnets, but can be found in movement, music, paintings, nature, and so much more, your imagination is the only limit, and with that, it is limitless.