Friday, November 13, 2009

How are Poetry and Philosophy Related?

Yesterday’s page on the Poetry Speaks calendar quoted Cynthia Ozick. She asks if poetry “is the child, or perhaps the parent, of philosophy?”

I think Poetry and Philosophy are siblings. Perhaps they are the twin children of awe and wonder struggling to rise above their humble birth. They are certainly not identical twins. Like many siblings they enjoy a love/hate relationship characterized by both close affinity and distant contention.

I’m neither a philosopher nor a poet; never the less I have made amateur attempts at both, occasionally writing poems and having taught philosophy. My poetry often reflects the emotional and sometimes mystical aspects of my being. It is the Dionysian expression of my psyche. Reading philosophy and trying to think philosophically feeds my Apollonian intellect. It exercises the “Thinking” preference of my personality.

Tom Christenson’s assertion in his Wonder and Critical Reflection: An Invitation to Philosophy, that “Philosophy, like poetry, can be important for the fresh-eyed approach it brings to things” suggests to me that the relationship between Poetry and Philosophy is like the relationship between two lenses in a pair of glasses. Looking through a single lens gives us a two dimensional view of the world, void of any depth. We need both views in order to better see, appreciate and understand our multifaceted and multidimensional world.

The picture to the upper right is the poet’s chair in the Poet’s Room of City Lights Books in San Francisco, where I have found both poetry and philosophy honored, appreciated, and celebrated. Below the windows is Jack Kerouac Alley.

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