Should one begin at the beginning, at least as far as one can see it, know it? Or is it right and proper, dulce et decorum est to begin somewhere else? But in any case, let us try to begin at the beginning. Perhaps we can almost see the first philosophers, the first poets when we read of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh asks perhaps the first question, perhaps the last question. In a deathful world, a world that ends, why live? Why live after the death of love, after the death of Enkidu? In the face of the Gods of Perversion, what is the point? Perhaps we should first begin near the end of the Iliad? In the speeches of Priam and Achilles over the defaced corpse of that almost perfect beauty of Hector? Should we then move closer to us, where we see better and may know more? Try to remember the fires of Heraclitus, the logos of John, the first scene of the Birds, Plato’s joke, is he serious, “first kill all poets.”
In any case this is the play of a lifetime, at least my lifetime. And in three hours, how much can de done, how much pleasure can be squeezed out? Certainly, we should play with Wally Stevens, take some pleasure with Old Doc Bill and his roses. Touch on and dance with the old Possum and his song of fire,
Will we have time to steep ourselves in Bunting’s Chomei at Toyama? Laugh with, laugh at Ezra the Mad? Consider his Homage of Sextius? Almost certainly not. But I want us, if any join me, to ask and maybe begin to answer the questions. What is poetry and what is it for?