Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Yes, a light touch... that sears

David Whyte, whose poetry I much love, posted this poem on his Facebook page today, and I have kindly received permission to paste it in here. I have the book and have only begun to plumb all its wonders.

Good poetry begins with
the lightest touch,
a breeze arriving from nowhere,
a whispered healing arrival,

a word in your ear,
a settling into things,
then, like a hand in the dark,
it arrests the whole body,
steeling you for revelation.
In the silence that follows
a great line,
you can feel Lazarus,
deep inside
even the laziest, most deathly afraid
part of you,
lift up his hands and walk toward the light.

From RIVER FLOW: New and Selected Poems
© David Whyte and Many Rivers Press

Photo © David Whyte
Sun Behind Sycamore Trees,
Littondale Yorkshire. July 2014
I have been writing poetry for a few years now and am getting much better at it, though I still love nothing more than a good narrative, a well-told story, or a reflection that shines some new light on our world and what it means to be human within it.

I have written it long enough to feel awed by this poem. Whyte lives in a way that allows this emergence to come to him. And when that started to happen to me, I began to realize more than ever before in my life the power of poetry, and why one poem can sometimes change everything you feel or believe about life.

Often, a line appears. I write it down. I go away. I come back to it and a whole poem rises out of the tomb and begins to walk. And it is sometimes terrifying. The vulnerability quickens my heartbeat and I wonder if I dare put it down on paper (I always start my poems with a pen or pencil in hand and my poetry journal, never, ever in a technology as cold as this), and then when I do, if I dare send it out into the world, or read it at my writers groups, or include it in a public reading.

I have a long-time friend who has been writing poetry on and off all through her life. I never knew this - until recently, until she started offering it to me. And now I have a full collection in hand, and the emotional rawness of it, the stunning revelations, the profound intimate vulnerability, makes me feel almost protective. But that's because she is a friend.

It's different reading Gregory Orr, or Ellen Bass, or Mike Burwell because I don't know them, and still I am stunned by their personal courage.

As I write my two books these days - one a completed draft now and the other well underway - I take inspiration from this kind of courage. We are running out of time to be safe, protective of readers or ourselves, or overly sensitive. We need to sear the world with the truth we see and know because we are running out of time to salvage this mess of humanity that we have become - going to war again, endless war, savaging the planet as we are, living in more and more chaos as a result of our unwillingness to change.

Our poets, artists, story-tellers, and musicians may have the more crucial role to play here because we in this culture are so in our heads, believing we can think our way out of this mess, that we will get a handle on things, that everything will be okay. Everything will decidedly NOT be okay, but we can create our way into a different way of being human, one that won't salvage this supposedly vaunted way of life, but that might salvage a livable world that can begin to heal itself.

To do that, we have to do some serious breakthroughs. We have to get out of our heads and back into the depths of our souls. We have to stop the inner mental tape that keeps spinning 'round and 'round never getting us to where we need to be if we are to become human again (if we ever really were) so that we can remain part of this reality we call a living planet - and still the only one we know of in the observable universe.

We can begin to sense that "light touch" of revelation emerging from within. We can give it shape and form in our lives. We can add our breath to the "whispered healing" and maybe help call Lazarus out of the cave, back from death...

...if we can just quiet ourselves now to be in the silence as we wait for the next "great line", maybe even raising ourselves from the dead.

by Margaret Swedish
Photos, too

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