It is the immediate influence of the Holy Spirit that causes words such as these (lines from the poet Hafiz) to stream from the tongue of poets, the significance of which they themselves are oftentimes unable to apprehend. – The Bab, quoted in Nabil’s The Dawnbreakers, p. 258.
The Baha’i teachings tell us that an individual’s successes in the arts and sciences should not become a source of pride or ego-building, because our talents and abilities come from outside ourselves:
All Art is a gift of the Holy Spirit. – Abdu’l-Baha, quoted in Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway, p. 167.
The light which these souls (the Prophets and Messengers of God) radiate is responsible for the progress of the world and the advancement of its people. They are like unto leaven which leaveneth the world of being and constitute the animating force through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 157.
The soul that hath remained faithful to the Cause of God, and stood unwaveringly firm in His Path shall, after his ascension, be possessed of such power that all the worlds which the Almighty hath created can benefit through him. Such a soul provideth, at the bidding of the Ideal King and Divine Educator, the pure leaven that leaveneth the world of being, and furnisheth the power through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest… – Ibid., p. 161.
Realizing that the source of our talent is a gift from God, it behooves us to use it well and be sure that it conduces to the well-being and improvement of society:
The poet is individual and subjective, but he is mankind’s conscience. – Geoffrey Nash, quoted in The Place for the Poet, Baha’i News, June 1989.
His [the poet’s] aim should be to speak with the tongue that whispers in the bones and arteries of his audience, in such a way that the isolated and speechless elements in the community find their voices in his harmony. – Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, Artist, Seeker, and Seer, Baha’i Studies, No. 10, p. 14.
The poet will lead mankind into the future by giving expression to hopes and visions that are often poorly articulated and little understood by most men. Poets serve as interpreters and prophets by giving definite shape to feeling, to thoughts only dimly perceived by others. They provide the images by which man moves into the future. – Dr. Glen Eyford, quoted in The Place for the Poet, Baha’i News, June 1989.
The efforts of the poet not only heal the world—they can also lead to self-healing:
What was it that motivated a poet to spend hours on end in his room polishing verses when there was no prospect of financial reward—or even, in most cases, a measure of recognition—for his labours? The answer, of course, was a sensuous love of language and an irrepressible drive to discover and express the essence of experience, to capture the evanescent moment and distill its meaning into memorable and evocative images. – John Spencer Hill, Ghirlandaio’s Daughter
His [the poet’s] function is to make his imagination theirs [the people’s] and he fulfills himself only as he sees his imagination become the light in the minds of others. His role, in short, is to help people to live their lives. – Wallace Stevens, The Necessary Angel
Writing a true poem is a voyage of discovery. – C.D. Wright, American poet
It is a function of poetry to locate those zones inside us that would be free, and declare them so. – Ibid.
She (Emily Dickenson) wrote her finest poetry out of scrutinizing her thoughts and sensations until, stared out of countenance, they became malleable material which she could crystallize into meaning for herself and everyone else. That is what poets do. If they have the practical skill in their craft…they rise through introspection to objectivity. That is, they find what seems to be the truth in their own feelings; then, in memorable form, make it truth that others can share. – James Playstead Wood, Emily Dickenson, A Portrait, p. 176.
Poetry sweeps away our spiritual cobwebs. It cleanses the soul. It gives voice to our innermost emotions:
Poetry is especially effective at describing spiritual realities because the poet deals with emotions: the non-physical, spiritual side of life. – “The Place for the Poet,” Baha’i News, June 1989
What is poetry, after all? It is the language that we turn to when there is no language than can express our thoughts and feelings. Poetry is, in fact, the attempt to move beyond language to communicate states of mind and states of spirit that cannot be communicated in words, but which nonetheless must be expressed. – Amin Banani, Tahirih, a Portrait in Poetry
Poetry feeds both the poet and the reader, yet leaves them hungry for more:
The poet’s job is to put into words those feelings we all have that are so deep, so important, and yet so difficult to name, to tell the truth in such a beautiful way that people cannot live without it. – Jane Kenyon, A Hundred White Daffodils
It seems to me that honey drips from the sweet tongues of poets.
In the last part of this series, we’ll see just how the honey of poetry sweetens our lives.