The Value Archetype

The buddhist poet Maitreybandhu has written a wonderful essay in the second issue of the poetry journal Poem titled The Value Archetype. It begins with a question: What is poetry for? And continues: Of course, the answer is: nothing—poetry is not for anything. Poetry has no instrumental purpose and therefore no price or function. He continues: I want to argue that poetry is for the discovery, creation and preservation of human value. By value I mean something that is valuable in and of itself and not as a means to an end. So kindness is a value. Money is not a value: its so-called value is dependant on what we do with it. Poetry is a value. All of the important values in human life are not for anything—they are ends in themselves.

The rest of the essay is devoted to relating the three jewels of Buddhism to poetry, poetic practice, and the community of poets. I am not a buddhist, but what he says resonates with how I think and feel about poetry.

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