Representing nations through poetry

Today, I followed a link to a web site that I rather enjoy — the United Nations of Poetry. Serendipitously I found the link and learned that it presents a catalog of international poets. I noticed, however, that some nations are missing from the list. For example, Germany is not represented. Consider including German language poets Durs Grünbein, Michael Hofmann and Sarah Kirsch. Also notably missing are Polish and Russian poets. Vera Pavlova makes a good addition to the United Nations of Poetry representing Russia. For Poland, Eugeniusz Tkaczszyn-Dycki might make a good contribution. And last, but not least, add Greek poet Dimitris Varos to the list of poetry dignitaries. One thing that is unique to the United Nations of Poetry is the inclusion of poets from America representing the indigenous peoples.

Why is this important? I think C. S. Lewis wrote that literature “irrigates the deserts that our lives.” Along that line of thinking, to know and understand the inner life of a nation or culture is to explore the fertile literature of their poets and writers. Film tends to present caricatures and stereotypes of Germans, Russians and Americans, but literature plumbs the depth of cultural nuances. For example, you might miss the significance of the shamrock and the lily in a film about two brothers in North Ireland. In a novel, the weight of those two images will elucidate the drama between the two siblings, and a reader will come to realize that the tensions between two brothers are often the same between nations.