I've been trying, and failing, to locate in my copy of Walden Thoreau's quote about having gone out into nature, at Walden Pond, to live deliberately – did he say 'to front life deliberately'?* (I know I could google it but I wanted too the context. I'll post it when I find it.).
As always with Thoreau, every page yields a score of quotes, so I took a diversion or three. Here's one: 'The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation... But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.' (Had you forgotten that it was Thoreau, not Pink Floyd, who said the first bit?)
Anyway, it seems to me that poetry, too, is that: an attempt to live life deliberately, to not have it pass by unseen and unheeded, to not live at such full tilt that we leave our souls behind in the dusty foothills as we scramble for faster and more of everything.
I think about Lucien Stryk's words that I quoted the other day about our lolloping around the universe not paying attention, scarcely knowing who we are; and I think poetry is an attempt to counter that, too.
Poetry is many many things. I've written on this at length, elsewhere. And one thing it is is a way of making sense, both for ourselves and others who may read it, of this life, of the experience of being, of our need for meaning. It's a distillation, a crystallisation, and in its way a holograph: in the microcosmic we may see the macro-: in other words, the personal can, in the hands of a good poet, open us not only to the universal but also to the universe.
* Found it: 'I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.'
I confess I succumbed to google; and found it on a blog for the wonderful Buddhist magazine 'Parabola'.