“Poetry” Is a Four-Letter Word

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Tonight, I’m fairly wiped. I didn’t “do” much as far as expending energy. I taught three classes in a row, on my feet and seated, ending with my Creative Writing course. And I drove away not really knowing how to account for my exhaustion. I could chalk it up to a longish week or something akin, but how would that explain my second wind upon arriving at one of my local haunts tonight? I don’t. What I will do instead is reference my note to self (inscribed on my soul — as per Plato): the emotional life is inexplicable and difficult to discuss beyond the mundane and cliché (”Ho hum. I’m drained.” “I feel content but tepid.” “I was eager & excited.” etc.). Emotions can be worn down by various factors, including being excited and expectant about the possibilities of encouraging new life and poetry in a group of students. So there you have it: how do we rejuvenate the emotional life that is an integral part of us, maybe the most and best of us? Poetry offers some recourse.

“…Wittgenstein believed that he was unable to write verse and that his ability to write prose extended only so far; limitations that were inherent in the ‘nature of my equipment’ (CV, 59e). As his friend Paul Engelmann (1967: 89-90) tells us, Wittgenstein never wrote poetry or played a musical instrument.28 Yet he talked of experiencing a ‘poetic mood’, like Schiller, where thoughts take on a lustre as vivid as nature itself (CV, 66e) and he assessed his own style of philosophising, in a characteristic anguished moment of self-reflection, as inventing new similes rather than a line of thinking (CV, 19e). Yet ‘A good simile refreshes the intellect’ (CV, 1e) and ‘a man’s philosophy’ might be seen to rest on a preference for certain similes (CV, 20e). He muses upon the way in which a philosophical investigation resembles an aesthetic one (CV, 25e) and indicates that although he finds scientific questions interesting they never really grip him in the way that aesthetic and conceptual questions do (CV, 79e).”

–from Wittgenstein/Styles/Pedagogy1 – Michael Peters, Universities of Glasgow & Auckland & Nicholas Burbules, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaigne

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