FRIENDSHIP, BOOZE AND POETRY

We sometimes settle into a train ride and enjoy it for its own sake, forgetting where we are going; the train becomes its own world, even as it moves with purpose; if the train became stuck, we would get annoyed, so the purpose is never forgotten; the train is our servant, taking us from one place to another—and yet the train also allows us to forget the reason and enjoy the experience.

Where is the train going? To another train. The purpose is to have no purpose.

Expression is like this, too. We talk for a reason, and yet we also just enjoy the talking.

What are we to say?  We can’t enjoy talking if we have no reason to talk; why is it that some people can talk endlessly and others, those others, are so quiet?

Poetry is reticent expressiveness; it combines the enjoyable and the purposeful aspects of the train ride.

Reticence is a virtue; think how much rudeness and chaos would exist without it.

Yet reticence is also a tomb.

Reticence is the torture of not being able to say what you want to say—or worse, not having anything to say at all.

Reticence, then, has its use, as a stay against rudeness and confusion, but its flip side is burial and death.

That which overcomes reticence, expression, is the train moving, information conveyed; we understand what expression is for, also.

People drink to put themselves at ease, to loosen up their tongues; it can produce the same happy result as friendship, where after a certain time, we trust another to tell them things; we can be at ease with a friend and express ourselves.

Booze and friendship move us from austere reticence, where the train chugs along without comment, to a train of feeling and comfort and light.

Poetry rides the same train as booze and friendship; it is doing exactly the same thing.

If intoxication and affection don’t turn you into a poet, there is something wrong.

Poetry allows one to retain that reticence even as one expresses oneself.

Alcohol turns one into a clown, or a bitter gasbag. It causes many train delays, and even train accidents.

Friendship can turn one into a fool, as well, as gossip replaces poetry.

Friendly gossip feeds on the fools and the clowns, the bad poets, the drunks, and soon friendly chat becomes as sour as what it feeds on. Soon you find yourself talking about people (those who are not your friends) and expressiveness becomes pointed and unfriendly, and the spirit of friendship is killed in an atmosphere of judgment and rebuke. There is always a danger when reticence is escaped and expression reigns supreme: the train goes too fast and plunges off a cliff.

Friendship is based on something very divisive: this person is my friend and this person is not.

A poet, if they are good, appeals to all readers, not just friends.

Dante, in his Vita Nuova, was aware of the fact that, as he was writing poems for his secret crush, Beatrice, he was running headlong into the reality that other ladies were curious and interested in his poetry.  If love is a kind of ultimate friendship (what else is it really?).  The Vita Nuova (a short work of poems and prose which pre-dated the Commedia) is such a wonderful book because it shows the poet thinking about how he will write poems to express his life, and how the expression itself then impacts his thinking and his life. Dante muses at one point that he will write his poem only for those “ladies who are sweet and gentle,” so here is a caveat to what we said above: poets have a wide appeal, although they may not write for all readers.  Yet Dante still writes to ladies in the plural, and nothing upsets a “friend” quite as much as when they see that you have an appeal that travels far beyond their friendship.

Poetry has the potential to soberly soar above friendship.

And this is why, like everything else under the sun, poetry is both loved and hated.

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