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The End of Poetry - Ada Limón

The poem I’m sharing today evoked a feeling of being in the presence of something sacred, something beautiful - a shamanic performance of sorts. It is the feeling that a student of music gets when his teacher rips the sky apart with a catastrophic meend. What beauty there is in a piece of art that understands the language of creation. Ada Limón’s The End of Poetry uses the form’s refined ornamentations and cliches in a self-reflexive dance of irony, to make a plea for honesty, for the naked essence of feeling. I believe that the relationship between a piece of art and the rasik works at different levels. There is the formal appreciation of a turn of phrase, the informed chuckle of an aesthete who knows the subversion of a rhyme scheme, or metre patterns, the awareness of the impression of soft sibilant sounds or the slow unfolding of metaphor. But there is also the intuitive tug of heartstrings, the sudden intake of breath, the experience of a feeling so deep that its only expression is involuntary surrender.

Limón, in this beautifully scathing take-down of bombast and flowery verse invokes both reactions, playing self-consciously with the reader, while tipping a hat to all the poets who have gone before, and expressed disdain for the kind of artifice that peppers cheap indulgent exhortations that parade as poetry. Her final plea transcends the domain of literary assessment or art critique, to become an expression that is at once universal, yet utterly intimate. I am in gratitude to the lovely Srividya (who never tires of sharing beautiful things) for introducing this poem to me. The poem has been published in the New Yorker, along with an audio recording by the poet.

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