Doug Wilton ≈ Poetry & Unpoetry — The Real Work




Real poetry wakes our sense of beauty in all its forms including that waking itself. Waking to beauty, we see how widely it is suppressed and defiled by unawakened minds, so waking to beauty is also waking to horror. That’s a high price to pay for an awakened life but the alternative is a tragic waste.
The communication of beauty is not limited to words so, in the largest sense, real poetry can be found in all forms of right livelihood and in all instances of communication between two minds. Unpoetry inhabits the same media but unpoetry is communication which fails to communicate beauty and effectively takes precious breath, time and space away from the quiet contemplation and practice of real poetry.



Real poetry can be written in the form of prose or verse. Unpoetry can also be written in prose or verse, often exhibits refined technique, is often found in prestigious journals, seems to be popular with the writers of academe.
Real poetry may reflect almost no knowledge of technique. It may be just a flow as helpless and uncontrolled as vomiting, as urgent or calm as a bowel movement. It may smell like death, semen, sweat, the sweet, sticky bud cases that fall from spring poplars or the sharp scent of cartridges ejected from a gun.

Unpoetry seldom has any noticeable smell tho it may be visually striking, like a dry skull or a pressed flower. Unpoetry is mostly a stringing together of words and ideas that once carried the smell of life but have been so overused they have become placeholders for those who lack the time or patience to make full, breathing contact with the topic or the words.

Unpoets may have an arsenal of interesting ideas but tend to be deaf to the subtle music that poets find in language when they breathe their lines.
Unpoets tend to be somnambulists who do not hear, see, smell or taste the world with which they interexist.
Unpoets live in a monochrome world in which the only important colors are black, white and gray so they tend to wear black or gray because they don’t show dirt as much.
Poets wear the colors of nature, prismatic as peacocks or muddy as marmots.

The unpoet is locked in a tunnel of passion and aggression, always midway between the light ahead and the darkness that pursues from behind. The walls of the tunnel are made of his ignorance which reduces everything to the scenery in the background of a movie about Number One, the person who is always in the center of each scene. Other people are just the half-seen extras with no important speaking parts.

The more unpoets ignore us the more we tend to let them slip away but a poet is always vigilant, watchful for any momentary opening of the unpoet’s eyes and heart and ready to point out the beauty that lies all around him as well as the horror. It’s the horror of reality that keeps the unpoet hiding within his dim, cool world, in the tunnel of ignorance, on the treadmill of illusion that never gets him one step closer to the imagined paradise at the tunnel’s imagined end.

The poet’s job is to help the unpoet see that the only way out of the tunnel is to open his mind and heart and see the gray walls dissolve, revealing a world sensually and emotionally raw, delicate and rugged, which stretches away in all directions under a small heaven that unites all living in one spherical forest distributed across one spherical sea.

The unpoet who has given up the illusion of escape tries to settle his anxiety about his inevitable death by arguing that the horror of life cancels out its pleasures hence life is hardly worth living. He affects a stoic indifference toward the suffering of others and of himself. This armour of indifference can become so thick he believes that numbness and solitude is the inevitable lot of the enlightened.

The poet’s job is to help this person wake from his false enlightenment by waking herself and becoming one example of a life awake to both the beauties and the horrors within and around this flowing moment, the only moment in which we are actually alive and present, to witness, to act and to speak.

The works in this journal were chosen because to varying degrees they exhibit the depth, diversity and aliveness of a writer engaged in this process, the poet’s real work.



2 thoughts on “Doug Wilton ≈ Poetry & Unpoetry — The Real Work

  1. Joel says:

    Beautiful, Doug. Reading this, I’m struck with how much time I personally spend in an unpoet space…how often a child or a flower will jolt me back to reality. Today, in the park, I watched a toddler chasing a pigeon in the grass. For about 20 minutes. Blessings Joel

  2. daen says:

    i enjoyed this, very much, and will let it wash me over for abit…though i have some questions
    metaphysically of whether unpoetry is just, preparing for birth..oh the pangs of it…

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