In one of my poetry classes we’re reading about the link between myth making and poetry. Currently we’re studying An open Life by Joseph Campbell, and next we’re reading Pathways to Bliss.
Campbell has a lot to say about the role of poets in today’s society. He discusses how the old myths and rituals no longer serve people the way they did even 50 years ago, and that it’s the role of the poet to create new myths to sustain our need for a connection between the outer world and our inner lives.
Campbell’s study of Native American cultures lead him to his research of world myths. And after studying Jung and seeing the work of artists like Picasso and Paul Klee, he came upon his theories of the monomyth, The Hero, and The Call, which he describes in his seminal work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
I read Hero a few years ago, but there’s so much to it that I’m pleased to have this chance to dive back into Campbell’s work. It’s a challenge, not only to base poems on old myths and fairy tales, but to create new, relevant myths through poetry. Film has done it: Star Wars, The Matrix, and now Avatar are a few examples of the Hero Myth in contemporary culture.
But what about poetry? Has poetry lost the ability to move the populace at large? Has film replaced poetry for the masses? I’m just asking.