Utterances of the Heart

grecoIn the rabbinical tradition at times of calamity and great suffering, Jews are advised to read three books:

The fact that the most important passages of these books was written in poetry is no accident. For it is poetry, and poetry alone, that can truly give voice to the utterances of our hearts.

“How lonely sits the city
that was full of people!
How like a widow has she become,
She that was great among the nations!”
(Lamentations 1:1)

“The old men have quit the city gate,
the young men their music.
The joy of our hearts has ceased;
our dancing has been turned to
(Lamentations 5:14-15)

Poetry operates in the realm of emotions and feelings. It is the language of love, and longing, and grief, and fear, and wonder. When someone says they do not “understand” poetry what they mean is that their way of approaching poetry is not letting them “feel” poems.

The way poetry is taught… that a poem is a puzzle to be riddled out… is part of the problem. The larger problem, though, is a spiritual one. As we become more secular as a culture, poetry becomes more and more difficult to approach and appreciate.

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