Sentinel Poetry #49 December 2006 ISSN 1479-425X
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF POETRY & GRAPHICS...Since 2002
Guest Editor: Nnorom Azuonye
The Child of Dream
Regular readers of Sentinel Poetry have become accustomed to the monthly editorials by Amatoritsero Ede. Most of these editorials have bordered on what constitutes good poetry and who may indeed call himself or herself a poet. Amatoritsero's editorials are like Marmite - you either love them or hate them. They have been severally criticised for what appears like posturing, others have criticised them for being too academic and heady. The editorials have also been praised for their insight, as outpourings of a mind that owns his subject. They have become a significant feature of the journal.
Editing this issue of Sentinel Poetry, I wondered whether or not I should attempt writing an editorial or whether I should simply use an anniversary message as the month's editorial. Surely that ought to suffice. Or maybe not. Since I first encountered poetry, I have read various definitions and have defined poems in my own way. I have stopped trying to define poetry, and have stopped encouraging people to do so. I rather hope that people get on with writing what they deem to be poetry and then publish them where they can. In "Grasping at the Indefinable" Mark Flanagan observes:
There are as many definitions of poetry as there are poets. Wordsworth defined poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings;" Emily Dickinson said, "If I read a book and it makes my body so cold no fire ever can warm me, I know that is poetry;" and Dylan Thomas defined poetry this way: "Poetry is what makes me laugh or cry or yawn, what makes my toenails twinkle, what makes me want to do this or that or nothing."
Flanagan goes on to state that "Perhaps the characteristic most central to the definition of poetry is its unwillingness to be defined, labelled, or nailed down." before proffering this definition; "Poetry is artistically rendering words in such a way as to evoke intense emotion or an Ah Ha! experience from the reader."
In My E-Conversation With Esiaba Irobi, Irobi gives his own definition of poetry:
Poetry, by definition, is that phenomenal fusion of music and imagery that creates life and propels life forward in the world. It is a regenerative dynamic that is reflected not only in human language/speech and writing but also in the heave and swell of the ocean, the wind in the trees, the seasons and their verses of leaves with changing colours. Life and death. The child's first cry. The last breath. Life and Death.
In all these definitions, I pick out the buzz words; spontaneous, feelings, cold, fire, warm, laugh, cry, yawn, twinkle, emotion, and music. Then I turn to what this issue of Sentinel Poetry is all about - celebration! Four years of continuous publishing with a backlist now in excess of 48 for the online and 7 for the print journal. The voices of hundreds of poets have been heard through our channels, and despite many shortcomings of the Sentinel journey, this has truly been a dream come true. If I choose today to express how I feel about it, if I pick the right words and make them bounce off each other to create music for the ears of our readers, eyes will twinkle, some hearts will be warmed by the fire of progress and achievement, some will laugh, others will cry and quite a few will yawn in exasperation because we certainly could not have pleased everybody. That piece of writing that brings out these emotions or feelings is the child of a dream and is poetry indeed.
In fact, whenever I read a poem, I always ask myself why it was written, what dream the poem is a child of. A most magnificent castle of words perhaps, a quintessential relationship with another human being or thing, or a dirge for a dream that did not make it to the house of success. Whatever makes you write, however you write, get writing already. I will never pretend to envy you as you undertake your task of snatching observations of your life or the life of others in poetry, because I agree more and more everyday with Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters To A Young Poet1 that "Things are not all so comprehensible and expressible as one would mostly have us believe; most events are inexpressible, taking place in a realm which no word has ever entered."
It is my fervent hope that we have now created homes for your metaphysical experiences and children of your dreams in Sentinel Poetry (Online) and Sentinel Poetry Quarterly which from March 2007 will become known as The Sentinel Quarterly: Journal of African and World Literature.
Photo 2006 by Max Azuonye.
1. Rilke, Rainer Maria. Letters To A Young Poet (1934, W.W. Norton & Co. Inc. New York) p.17