On the Poetic Impulse

In Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, historian Yuval Harari argues it is ‘the ability to create an imagined reality out of words’ (p.36) that really sets humans apart from other animals:

We can weave common myths such as the biblical creation story, the Dreamtime myths of Aboriginal Australians, and the nationalist myths of modern states. Such myths give Sapiens the unprecedented ability to work together in large numbers… That’s why Sapiens rule the world… (pp. 27~28)

The innate impulse of the human imagination is clearly on display in Norene Cashen’s ‘When a Child Writes a Poem’, where words paint pictures of worlds of wild ideas containing seas of truths. And society’s interest in fostering such creativity in its young is brought home by Beate Sigriddaugher’s apposite cameo ‘The Poet’. For as Harari also points out, ‘Since large-scale cooperation is based on myths, the way people cooperate can be altered by changing the myths – by telling different stories’ (p. 36).

What better case for the place of poetry in schools, and the poet in society?


When a Child Writes a Poem
~ for Terry Blackhawk

When a child writes a poem
the moon is an eye
that sees itself
curious and large
cut out of the night
with scissors

Against the sky
there’s a pencil
that writes its own world
of wood and wild ideas
with slate-gray lead
wearing away
like time

And that time
sails along the arc
of an alphabet hill
then disappears behind
watercolor trees

And behind those trees
the sea is not the sea
only a blue truth
where something swims
scaled and silver
moving too fast for anyone
to catch it


The Poet

I am the blood
moving through the danger
of petrified myth.



Harari, Y. N. (2011). Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Vintage

‘Ink Muse’ (top right) by j4p4n was retrieved from https://openclipart.org/detail/277036/ink-muse