A Poet Looks at Transparency

How much we need reasons!
How reasons make us feel better!
– from "Noreen" by Peter Meinke, from Scars

I've been pondering the question that arises from the interplay between personal and corporate transparency:  What should CEOs share online and why?  I've written some of my personal and corporate answers in Nudity Is the New Transparency and In The Age of Transparency Akin to Nudity, Someone Might Tell Us Our Pecs Sag or Our Thighs Are Fat.

My personal and corporate transparency got trashed here.

For more insights, I needed reasons upon which to make some sense of the subject (and to feel better about the trashing).  I sent an email to Peter Meinke, award-winning poet and social commentator, and asked for his views on transparency.

Peter Meinke replied:

Peter Meinke I’ve been publishing poems, stories, and essays for over 50 years.  All of my “secrets” and “confessions” are hidden in there somewhere – but I don’t believe, aesthetically speaking, in factual truth.  Telling the “truth,” naming names, is often aggressive and abusive.   What’s the point?  And of course, as any political or detective thriller shows, accepted “facts” often change. The tabloids deal in facts, whether they be about Iraq or Tiger Woods – but those facts tend to change, yearly or hourly.

A fine definition of poetry is “the emotional history of the world.”   Shakespeare’s sonnets remain emotionally true, even though he conceals the name of the lover – and even the lover’s sex! – throughout his poems.  “So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,” he writes, “So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”   But he doesn’t name “thee,” and scholars have spent 400 years guessing.   It’s human to be curious, but it doesn’t make better art.   Keats’s sonnet on the wonder of discovery is absolutely right on, even though he confuses Cortez with Balboa:  “Then felt I like some watcher of the skies / When a new planet swims into his ken…”

Being “naked” and “vulnerable” isn’t a bad thing, but in public it can be intrusive, egomaniacal (and sometimes illegal). There are places where nudity is desirable, and places where it can be surprising – but in most places (make your own list) it can be embarrassing, and perhaps disgusting.

Writers who stick to the “facts” – besides being often wrong about them – are generally careless of other people, including their so-called loved ones.   Robert Lowell, comes to mind – using his ex-wife’s letters, for example; this was not only painful for her, the poems weren’t that good, anyway, and certainly not helped by the literal “truths”involved.

Ars longa, vita brevis.

– Peter Meinke


Translation and more on Ars longa, vita brevis from Wikipedia.

In another life, I was a poet and was honored to have Peter Meinke as a mentor.  He writes Poet's Notebook for Creative Loafing, has written multiple books, and will be Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina for the month of January, 2010.

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