Tell me again ... what do you mean by 'poetic'?

A friend posted that she ‘hates’ the word poetic and wants only to use the term ‘creative’. Her comment made me try to get even clearer about what I mean by the term ‘poetic’, to think about why I use the word and why it is absolutely necessary to me, and why the c… word will never replace it.


I started using the term ‘poetic’ to describe a perspective on the world that I was missing so badly in my life. I needed ‘the poetic’ to complement the formal rigour of mathematics and linguistics in which I was immersed for much of my academic life after leaving school, and which continually fell short for me by excluding so much of what it means to be human.  As beings with interior lives, we make sense of our experience in the world through our bodies, emotions, feelings, imagination, memory.

The term ‘poetic’ concerns the manner of experiencing our human ‘being-in-the-world’…

I can experience the world through science and logic, using the scientific method to explore and experiment and construct descriptions and explanations, to find solutions to describable problems, to think rationally.

I can experience the world through my prosaic and practical interactions with it – growing food, keeping sheltered, making a family, tidying up, making money, building businesses and houses.

And I can also meet the world in a poetic experiencing, which involves the senses and the emotions, the body and the mind, an awareness of self and of others. A poetic experiencing is thoughtful, contemplative, takes time to notice complexity and layering, does not shy away from feeling beauty and goodness as well as violence and destruction, has space for the un-describable. It attends to the world and to being-in-the-world with ‘a patient loving gaze’.

Then there is an overflowing of this poetic experiencing into a more deliberate or conscious response – a felt need to speak or write or photograph or paint in order to respond to the lived experiencing.


A poetic experiencing has space for the un-describable.

Lynne CameronComment