Auld Lang Syne

Monday, November 28, 2011

Intrinsic substance and human experience

My Facebook friend, Ren Powell, journaled the following:

I have days where I think that poetry is a sham and that I have wasted time, energy and money on something ultimately constructed on such things as religion are made of. No roots, no hooks, no intrinsic substance. And then I remember the point of it all is that it has no intrinsic substance; it is the weaving of meaning in the empty space between us; it is context-dependent and ephemeral; it is activity, not object. Which is precisely why it creates the illusion of shared experience - and of devastating isolation.

I think about this frequently, especially when I am writing and the poem seems to be gasping on the page. It is very frustrating to be an artist in a world where your art is considered passé or intrinsically useless. But I realize pretty quickly that I am just being self-pitying. It is a stance against which I choose to battle by continuing to write and revise. I can (mostly) write myself out of this state. As Ren says so beautifully, it is about the connective tissue of the spaces, and most assuredly a shared experience via these connections, illusory or real. This morning, buoyed by Ren's journal entry, I feel a bit like singing.

Earlier today, I was lying in bed, waking myself and reflecting on the past several days of Thanksgiving visitors and activities. I have to acknowledge that all of it: the cooking, the music, the laughter, the eating, the being downtown in chilly temps to see the Lobster Trap Tree illuminated for the first time this season, is evidence of that weaving of connections, that stretching out of spaces to make merry and be human. Being alive and connected to others in the small things is exactly the kind of humanity that fuels my writing and strengthens the connections with readers. Oh yes, there is certainly a sense of profound discouragement when poetry is disparaged by some, or when poetry books are not promoted and purchased. But that is a pebble under foot compared to the elation and satisfaction I feel when hearing that my 19 year old grandson and his college mates sit around and discuss my poetry even though it is not required reading for their program of study. Oh what could be better for a poet than to find out people are reading and discussing! It makes the self-defeating chatter in our heads get fainter and fainter.

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