05 March 2011

The Poetry of C.S. Lewis

I've been a Lewis fan since I was a young boy. I started with The Chronicles of Narnia in my preteen years, only to read and reread them many times since. When I go back to those seven books, I travel not only to Narnia, but also to my childhood. That's the beauty of a book; those experiences you had so long ago roll back under your nose and you breathe them again. I remember well sitting on our front lawn on a sunny day in southern California reading about Prince Caspian and his rebel forces. I remember the rainy days too (as close to winter as we got), curled up in front of a fire, galloping through the air with Fledge. Now I look forward to making those same kinds of memories with my boys. In fact, I just might look forward to those times even more fervently than I look back and long for another day full of reading as a child.

As a college student, and now as an adult, I've continued to read Lewis. His nonfiction books compel me to be the type of Christian who longs after the reign of the King, and they show me how to be "merely" Christian. Right now I'm reading his collected letters. From the time he was a boy, Lewis, or Jack as he liked to be called, was a genius. He was reading Greek and studying the great poets when he was barely a teen.

Nothing, however, matches his fantasy work (in this I include his Space Trilogy). Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength just might be my favorite of his. That is, until I picked up his poetry last week. If you like Lewis, but you think you don't like poetry (believe me, everyone does, deep inside everyone likes the rhythm of words and the creativity of the imagination), just try him out. One of the main reasons, I think, that poetry has fallen out of popular culture is because people have stopped trusting poets. Their poetry has become so obscure, so unreadable and unidentifiable, that people won't even try. That's what I love about Lewis; yes, there is the occasional poem that's over my head, but the very first two lines in his collection of poems goes like this:

I am so coarse, the things the poets see
Are obstinately invisible to me

The poem is called "A Confession," and Lewis goes on to describe the things "the poets" see in nature: "A patient etherized upon a table," compared to evening; "Waterfalls," and "torn underclothes;" "glaciers," and "tin-cans." Indeed, there are poets these days (just listen to Writer's Alminac sometime) who seem to be going for shock value more than relateable comparisons, and originality more than beauty.

Lewis says he is, "...like that odd man Wordsworth knew, to whom/A primrose was a yellow primrose," and one "compelled to live on stock responses." Those stock responses are what we all relate to in things like music today - especially the folksy music that tells a story. It's the bizare music, the strange "original" music and poetry that doesn't hang around like the simple, the beautiful, the well-played and well-written kinds. Those are what we need more of, those "stock responses" to "dull things" like:

...peacocks, honey, the Great Wall, Aldebaran,
Silver weirs, new-cut grass, wave on the beach, hard gem,
The shapes of horse and woman, Athens, Troy, Jerusalem.

Give poetry a second, or first, chance. And go with Lewis.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...