Columns by Sherod Santos

The Poem That Invented Us

3.29.10

It’s a thing of the past, we often say of the past. But like childhood, something within it is always present. And something within the lyric poem relives that fateful moment when the human figure stepped from the shadow of heroes and gods to assume its natural form. Here I am, the lyric said, and here I am as I am.

we are born of the dead

In the seventh century BCE, poets first began to compose whole poems around the day-to-day particulars of their own lives; and in so doing, they invested the lyric with an awesome, self-renewing power, the power to fire the human spirit and, at the same time, to call into question the religious, social, and political structures that governed their daily world.

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