City and Poetry

by on Wednesday, 21 April 2010 7129 hits Comments
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Can city inspire poetry? Traditionally, Nature is the first source of poetic inspiration: lakes, mountains and trees move the heart and the lips, and the music of the Earth becomes the one of our soul. However, city has become like a “second nature” to us, and its streets, its moods, its people and its scenery work on our emotions and our aesthetic sensibility as do waterfalls, pine trees and rocks.

When thinking about the poetic nature of cities, there is something that can strike even more our imagination: a city looks actually like an immense poems; its avenues, buildings or underground can be read as a giant network of rhymes, metaphors and verses. The city is like an elegy that men write, carve and erect on the surface of the earth. And these poems of glass, iron and cement inspire to them artworks of words, images and stories. The city is poetry itself - the poetic work erected by men to the face of the sky.

Lastly, cities are not always good poems – they can become dry, repetitive, uninspiring… For sure, no builder or developer can fully control the poetic impact of a city, for a city is first and foremost the creation of its inhabitants. Still, planners, artists and elected officials can nurture the poetic soul of a city though well thought public arts projects, humane city development and encouragement to citizens’ initiative. Ultimately, the more a city truly belongs to the ones who inhabit it, the more it will become the trigger and repository of the emotions, thoughts and inspirations of the people who will wander through its streets, its parks and its labyrinths.

This issue of eRenlai explores these three dimensions: what kind of poetic feelings will a city arise within our hearts? How can the city proper be read as a giant poetic work? And how can we foster the poetic soul of the cities we inhabit? Let us hope that this issue will inspire all of us, and that it may reach the ones who are responsible for city planning. Our future will not depend only on their technical ability but rather on the way they will be able to respect and foster our dreams, our fantasies and our creativity…

(Drawing by Bendu)

Last modified on Wednesday, 08 January 2014 17:34
Benoit Vermander (魏明德)

Benoit Vermander lives in Shanghai. He teaches philosophy and religious anthropology at the University of Fudan.

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