Zhang Enli (Chinese, b. 1965), Tree, 2003. Oil on canvas, 146 x 113.7 cm.
It’s an old tradition in the West among great poets that poetry is rarely thought of as ‘just poetry.’ Real poetry practitioners are practitioners of mind awareness, or practitioners of reality, expressing their fascination with a phenomenal universe and trying to penetrate to the heart of it. Poetics isn’t mere picturesque dilettantism or egotistical expressionism for craven motives grasping for sensation and flattery. Classical poetry is a ‘process,’ or experiment—a probe into the nature of reality and the nature of the mind …
Real poetry isn’t consciously composed as ‘poetry,’ as if one sat down to compose a poem or a novel for publication. Some people do work that way: artists whose motivations are less interesting than those of Shakespeare, Dante, Rimbaud, and Gertrude Stein, or of certain surrealist verbal alchemists—or of the elders Pound and William Carlos Williams, or, specifically in our own time, of William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. For most of ‘The Moderns,’ as with the Imagists of the twenties and thirties in our [last] century, the motive has been purification of mind and speech.
—Allen Ginsberg, from ‘Meditation and Poetics’, in Going on Faith: Writing as a Spiritual Quest, edited by William Zinser (Marlowe & Co., 1999).