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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Poets


The announcement concerning the 2011 Giller Prize Shortlist happened at the same time that I began spending more time with the poems of the prophet Jeremiah. Then almost immediately after came news that another poet, Tomas Transtroemer of Sweden, has won the Nobel prize for Literature. The juxtaposition of these three events has had me thinking about the role of poets and other artists in society.

It is probably clear to anyone reading the Book of Jeremiah that the book is largely poetry. Even though the text was originally written in Hebrew, the modern English translations still retain the unmistakable imprint of skilled, creative and careful crafting of words expressing ideas. For the reader, ingesting this text has the effect of savoring a delicious and sweet use of language applied to a very bitter subject matter; the conquest of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel and the enslavement of its people. The central question is, if we are God’s chosen people, how could God let this happen? The author quickly posits an answer to this question, although not one the average person would have been likely to readily welcome. He certainly did not win a Nobel Prize, nor a popularity contest either!

Great writers; poets, novelists and other artists, always have something they wish to (or need to) say. In this sense, they perform something of a prophetic function. Their work often provides us with a new lens for looking at a given subject or situation. That lens often brings a different perspective than that which is upheld in the public media or the court of public opinion. Sometime we find their observations uncomfortable. Often we may disagree with their point of view. Whether we agree or not, however, we generally recognize that what such persons have to say matters, just as Jeremiah's words matter.

Sadly, I have not read any of the current list of work by the Giller nominees. Some are new young-adult authors who are being welcomed to the Canadian literary table, and that is a very good thing. They will no doubt bring a new perspective to whatever it is they are thinking and writing about, either now or in some future work. Even without having read these authors, I am pleased at their inclusion.

And so here we are, back to the subject of books in this blog. What a surprise! So let me ask you, read any good poets lately?

Posted by Carman

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