The first Sesame Club meeting of the 2012-2013 year was held recently in the Oak Room at Pine Bluff Country Club.
President Donna Davis called the meeting to order and led the reading of the Collect. After a brief business meeting, the new theme of study, “Poets and Poetry” was introduced.
Ruth Roberts presented the first program, “Poetry: Wisdom of the Ages.”
Poetry is one of the oldest art forms. “Gilgamesh”, a Babylonian epic, is generally considered to be the earliest recorded poem — written around 2,000 B.C.
Roberts gave an overview of the movement of poetry as a work in progress, beginning with Aristotle’s “Poetics” written in the 4th century B.C. and ending with the present day.
Following centuries of lofty expression, Geoffrey Chaucer, in the 14th century, f inally breathed some life into English poetry by telling how men and women of that day spoke to one another — writing realistically. Some historians say that we learn more about that time from Chaucer than from reading history.
Roberts read “Wife of Bath” in Chaucer’s Middle English — amazing Sesame Club members. In the 18th century, a Dutch linguist unlocked the Middle English sounds, bringing in Modern English, to make the poetry understandable and Chaucer bounded up to take his place behind only Shakespeare and Milton on the list of great poets.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, poetry came to be viewed as “an art of imitation … with this end, to teach and delight.” It should instruct as well as entertain. The idea that poetry should instruct did not originate in England. Centuries earlier, the Roman poet Horace had said that poetry should be “useful and sweet.”
By the 18th century, poetry was again redefined. No longer to be a pleasant form of instruction, it was to be smooth, witty, and gracious in keeping with that century’s decorum and restraint. Alexander Pope was the greatest poet of that period.
The 19th century brought the great Romantic poets — Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelly and Keats. They turned poetry toward the modern era. Wordsworth said poetry should be written in the language really used and that “poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” In 1818, Keats wrote, “Poetry … should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts and appear almost as a remembrance. Its touches of beauty should never be halfway. The rise, the progress, the setting of imagery should, like the sun, come natural to him.”
English poetry was the foundation for American poetry — American poets thought they had to imitate Englishmen and produced largely inferior verse. In the 19th century, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson came on the scene and American verse sprang to life. Today, American poets are leading the pack.
Roberts concluded her program with: “So long as poetry remains a vital form of human expression, we can expect its techniques and purpose will continue to change. It is indeed a work in progress.”
Hostesses Mary Shannon Fikes, Betty Matthews, and Sue Trotter invited members for refreshments to tables decorated with autumn colors. The next meeting of Sesame Club will be Oct. 30.