Poetry Review — Opposite: Poems, Philosophy and Coffee

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British poet Helen Mort set out to write something about poetry that many do not see or haven’t seen since the times of the ancient Greeks — the connection between poetry and philosophy. Poetry explains and examines with rhythm, rhyme, emotion, and imagery. Philosophy speaks in complex thoughts and in a language that one needs to learn much like a mathematician or a physicist. In ancient times, philosophy, theatre, and poetry shared a common root in a pantheon of gods. Today, philosophy, using the same theme, can be compared to a seminary lecture and poetry to a cathedral’s ornate stained glass windows. They both tell the same story but in a different manner.

Mort and editor Aaron Meskin exchanged philosophy papers for poetry. Mort would read an article by or from Meskin and then would try and capture its meaning in a poem. It was not always easy, and I imagine, at times unsuccessful. In this edition, Mort writes a poem and has a philosopher interpret and define it in a philosophical manner. Luckily for the reader, the philosophers keep it light enough and readable for the layman to understand. The subjects vary from motherhood to tattoos and everything between. Mort even approaches the subject of rape with the song “Chalet Lines” and how the word was made glassy and elegant and rolled smoothly like a marble. A.W. Eaton of the University of Chicago follows up Mort’s poem with art history and that a large number of paintings portraying sexual violence that are made glossy and elegant in their own way.

For lovers of poetry and philosophy, Opposite is an enjoyable read that shows there is still connectivity between the two disciplines. Mort earned her Ph.D. from Sheffield University and is the author of a novel, two poetry collections, and the editor and contributor to several poetry and literature projects. Meskin is the Professor of Philosophical Aesthetics at the University of Leeds. Biographies of the other contributors are included in the book. Coffee, well, coffee is the lubricant that keeps poets and philosophers talking, thinking, and writing.

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