On poetry


It is very difficult to talk about poetry in principle. Through so many centuries of human existence it has had thousands of incarnations. What I say here does not pretend to capture more than my personal view – and that within the framework of the present point in time. For me, poetry is the art of subjectivity, it is to the highest degree an art of the individual. If we wish to understand a person intimately, we must ask him what poetry he likes. This is why lovers share poetry. According to one Bulgarian poetess Kristin Dimitrova, no one is ashamed to be called a poet, but everyone is afraid of being seen writing poetry, since poetry is the mirror of human subjectivity.

In this sense, it is the essence, the spine, the emanation of every literature. Poetry is like the first-aid kit in the car that every literature has – if a crisis arises, if there’s an accident, it’s the first thing you reach towards for help. Sometimes this is quite risky for those who create it – the poets. In the past poetry was a means of communicating with God. There have been periods in human history during which poetry was the paramount genre. Today, poetry and poets have been shoved into the world’s dark corner. As the art of subjectivity, poetry teaches us individualism, yet contemporary humanity is not particularly fond of individualists. Nevertheless, humanity cannot exist without poetry. With its brevity, it forever reminds us of life’s fleetingness, which in some sense disturbs us, but at the same time keeps us vigilant. Poetry cannot enter the same market-driven relationships as prose – proof that it is much closer to human nature.

Poetry is a reservoir of humanness in today’s artificial world. This is why its functions are close to that of religion in the past; it begins where reason leaves off. It is possible to have professional writers, but it is not possible to have professional poets, since poetry is not a profession, it is an essence, a way of being. Reading poetry is an exchange of essences. Rhythmic speech was the first artistic phenomenon of human language and as such it preserves something unique about human culture. Poetry has helped convey human culture through time. Today, we humans remember poetry and poets only in times of crisis – but even that is enough. Poetry will save humanity.


Ivan Hristov

Translated from Bulgarian by Angela Rodel




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