ah, poetry...

Eversince I saw these words inscribed on one of the plaques at the newly restored Jack Kerouac Alley, I have been looking for its original text. Finally, I found it today and was blown away by the beauty and honesty of Ferlinghetti's words. It is quiet long, but I picked some of these lines which speaks to me right now.

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What is poetry?
Love lie with me, and I will tell.

Poetry is a lawless enterprise.
Poetry is the truth that reveals all lies.
All the world is one poem, all poetry the world, give or take a bomb or two.
Poetry is what we would cry out upon coming to ourselves in a dark wood in the middle of the journey of our life.
It is the light at the end of the tunnel and the darkness within it.
It is the morning dove mourning love, and nothing cries out like the cry of the heart.
Every great poem fulfills a longing and puts life back together.
A poem can be made of common household ingredients: it fits on a single page
yet it can fill a world, and fits in the pocket of a heart.
It is a pulsing fragment of inner life, an untethered music.
It is the sound of gaiety while weeping.
It is the sound of summer in the rain and of people laughing behind closed shutters down an alley at night.
It must be more than want ads for broken hearts.
It is worth nothing and therefore invaluable.
It is a high house echoing with all the voices that ever said anything crazy or wonderful.
It is a humming, a keening, a laughing, a sighing at dawn, a wild soft laughter.
It is the existential dance of the self and the other.
Poetry is at once sacred and pagan play at its most utopian.
Each poem a momentary madness, and the unreal is realist.
It gives voice to all who see and sing and cry and laugh.
The poet must decide if bird cries are cries of ecstasy or cries of despair.
What is the use of poetry? If you have to ask, you need it.

Taken from "What is Poetry? A Rough Draft of an ARS POETICA" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. You can read the entire text

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Update 10/4: Today could very well be the end of the Travelling Poetry Show and Poetry Thursday and I won't lie, I am really sad. But such is life, I can only thank my lucky stars that I was a part of this community even if it was only for a short period of time. Thank you Liz and Dana and everyone for helping me find my way back to poetry again. I will still continue to post poems here, especially on Thursdays, and hope to "see" all of you around the blogosphere!


  1. Amazing lines! Each one of them stirs something within. I, too, shall miss Poetry Thursday but I believe a new site will emerge. I'll be back to follow your work.

  2. Odessa, I'm sure I've said this before, but each time I read your words I think, she is awesome at writing poetry! Every word is so carefully chosen and written from the heart. Your honesty is clear and your summation of the beauty of poetry, exquisite!

    Thanks for visiting me today. You were one of the ones who encouraged me to put my beginnings up...I hope you can see me improve in a year!

  3. hi tumblewords,
    thanks for dropping by! yes, i love each of these lines, the entire text actually, and want to put it up some place where i can see it everyday.

    hi marie,
    i'm so flattered! but no, i didn't write this one (though i wish i could write as well as he does). thanks so much for visiting.