And, at the end of the day, what does poetry have to offer?

If we where to find a single answer to these questions, this discussion would no longer be about poetry, it would be about science. Poetry is not universal, it is not given. It is not answers it seeks. Poetry is a question with no answers, neither right nor wrong. The poem is yours, and so is the answer.

It offers nothing. It was not made to offer anything in particular. It was made to inspire. Nor was it made to serve a purpose. It was not made to serve anything. It was made to enchant. It is without purpose. It is not read for a reason, except to set free.

If so, then what is poetry to us, each one of us? Does an answer even exist? We do not know. If one exists, it is subjective. Besides, poetry having always being difficult to define, many definitions were proposed through the centuries. But, what difference does this make?

Perhaps it is what the sea is to a sailor, the truth to a philosopher, the object of desire to someone whose love is unrequited. A love unfulfilled that will forever remain so. And, to say it like it is, we do want it to remain unfulfilled. How else could it be, since poetry is both that which has been written and that which never will be? It is what lies between the lines, hidden behind comparisons, metaphors and rimes. It is what we read, as well as what is not written. So, what is poetry to me?

I am not sure I can offer any one answer. In fact, I am not even sure whether I have an answer at all. By trying to add to the answer, perhaps I will end up subtracting from it. And, minimalist though poetry may be, subtraction does not become it. It is only about addition, addition of feelings, thoughts, concerns... Poetry is personal and utterly subjective.

Trying to define it will only limit it. Still, it cannot be limited... nor delimited, it knows no time or place, it has no face... It is not history. We are not looking for causes or reasons, nor are we looking for what is, but simply for what might be. It changes form and acquires your own. It becomes memory, love, sorrow, reminiscence...

But still, what did the poet mean? Does it really matter? Is there someone who actually knows what the poet wanted to express when composing the poem? The poet alone knows. Perhaps not even the poet. What difference does what he meant make, why he wrote it or where and under what circumstances? If what you want is to judge the poem, and hence the poet, then there might be reasons for you to look into it. If simply loosing yourself in it, travelling in it, always returning to it is what you want, it makes no difference whether it was someone called Kavafi who wrote it in Alexandria, or Kavadias on SS Cyrenia.

Why read poetry then? Because sometimes it relaxes me and others it drives me into a wild party. Sometimes, it makes me melancholic, reminding me... of the olden days of wise nannies and rebel veterans. It allows my thoughts to wander off... in faraway travels and the blue seas, in places and times that the body has never visited and perhaps never will. Other times, it cages me. Yet, in a prison that I, myself, have chosen. It is the moment when a single word, a single phrase, becomes my whole world, a world within me.

Like a moment captured in a photo, it is moments compared to which time, the day or month are of no importance. It is moments that erase time. Sense of time exists no more. And the timeless comes to be. It is eternity in a moment. Much like painting... it takes me through landscapes I have never visited, events I have never experienced, people I have never met. Yet it feels as if I had known them forever. And then, there is nothing. It is all gone. As if in a novel... it takes me to times and places existing and that never existed. It takes me to the past. It takes me forward into the future. I remember. I dream. Poetry does not dwell in the present. It has no present.

And there, in my own space and time, I meet the poet and engage with him in a passionate tango, a tango of music, words and synchronisation. I share, but only for a moment, while the poem lasts, in the passion, attraction and feeling, in the melancholy, mourning and introspection. I follow in his footsteps, I improvise... The poet asks me to submit to him, to follow him. He scorns me. I pledge discipline and then move with absolute ease.

In poetry, I discover those objections in which my opinions are transfigured into an act of contradiction, irrational and surrealistic, an act synonym of life. In poetry I find darkness and light, loneliness and people. I see images and voids, life and death. Imagination unbound. This is what I am looking for in poetry: the irony of life, its irrationality, it sticking its tongue out at me and me smiling at it. I look for sarcasm and mockery. In poetry, I find friendship, loneliness, separation, love and passion. Poetry means to wander around...

It sets me free... in a journey of dreams, beyond the possible, beyond the known, in the unattempted, in that which was brought from elsewhere.

Kyriaki Papakonstantinou

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