For today’s prompt, write a poem that responds (or somehow communicates) with another poem. You can respond to any poem. If you’re having trouble figuring out which one, choose a poem from this following list of poems from collections I’ve been reading this month:
- There Are Birds Here, by Jamaal May
- Aubade With Burning City, by Ocean Vuong
- The Translator, by Sandra Beasley
- Ode to the Flute, by Ross Gay
- How to Triumph Like a Girl, by Ada Limon
So I am not a poet and I know it. When I hear the name names Walt Whitman, I think of the high school from the television show, Room 222 and not the poet. I cannot name any of his or anybody else’s poems; I don’t know what his poems or anybody else’s sound like; and if you read me any poem — with the slight possibility of The Cremation of Sam McGee (Robert Service) — I couldn’t tell you who wrote it. So to respond to a poem, well, that means a bit of research and maybe some reading.
I opened my thick poetry book, A Treasury of POEMS, and skimmed through the table of contents. I stopped at the first poem in the Character section. The Inner Man by Plato. I’ve recently read Thucydidies’ History of the Peloponnesian War, so ancient Greece was on my mind. I turned to it, read it, and thought, yes, I can disagree with this.
Beauty depends on simplicity-I mean the true simplicity
of a rightly and nobly ordered mind and character.
He is a fool who seriously inclines to weigh the beautiful
by any other standard than that of the good.
The good is the beautiful.
Grant me to be beautiful in the inner man.
I think Plato’s idea is too simplistic, and I wrote quite a few notes about the differences. What is a nobly and ordered mind anyway? A conventional mind? One that knows right from wrong, good from bad, and best from worst? Is it a mind that has all the answers? Is there such a thing?
The one thing Frank Herbert tells us in Dune is if we know the future, our life becomes endlessly tedious. In my mind the only truly nobly and ordered mind is the perfect mind, the mind that knows it all. Not only can there never be such a mind, but we also probably would regret having such a mind.
Goodness is not a simple thought . We cannot be good simply by deciding it. We only really know good when we know bad. We have to learn right from wrong. Plato leaves out the part where a life of blood, toil, and regret has served to create such a mind.
Here’s my poetic response.
Great art needs great strife.
Only death leads to life.
Nobody holds the hand of
a child who never cries.