Poetry Today (in Perilous Times) 2

Poets, writers, artists have a three-fold purpose as I see it:
1) the task of witnessing.  2) the task of writing it down or rendering it in some creative way.  3) sharing what they’ve written or created as a result of witnessing.  They’ve then come full circle with their particular art.

Within it, poetry has the imperative to share a message.  That message is intended to be evocative.  To awaken in the reader some of the same emotions that the witness/writer has experienced in putting pen to page.  A writer or painter can never be guaranteed that her audience is going to feel the exact same emotion.”  They can’t be attached to the outcome or response to their piece once it is released.  Fly away little bird.  But they must release it and allow it to affect and influence whoever it might, however it may.

Poets write about anything.  Poetry can express everything.  It is rare that the reader is privy to what precisely preceded the poet writing a particular poem.

I painted a piece with fish as the theme.  I don’t remember why I chose to paint these fish.  As I stood back from it and studied it, I felt tranquility.  It was exploratory.  But it didn’t have pop!  Not enough value contrast.  Or cohesion.  It prompted this poem, regardless.

A Quiet Wonder
© by Christine O’Brien

Underwater Kingdoms
Civilizations that we can’t comprehend
the sheen of scales
glint of colors
that stun in light’s glory
the silver trails through
unimaginable depths
the flash of a tail–
fish or mermaid
who is to say
for certain things
happen in depths
where humans
dare not go
we can’t all be Cousteau
though at times
if you’re at all
contemplative
you dive deep
into the dark waters
into what you’ve not known
beyond fears that taunt
and perhaps discover
another side
a way through
a quiet wonder

If this poem causes the reader to pause and contemplate something beyond their norm, then it has succeeded.
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On the Surface

This looking and seeing is a theme I visit on occasion.  Perhaps it’s only a mind game yet…is it a worthy one?

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I look.  I see something.  Based on what I expect to see, studies have shown that I confirm my already-formed perceptions.  It is comforting to me to imagine that what I see gives confirmation to what I perceive or believe to be so.  If my preformed perceptions are confirmed, I often don’t look any deeper.

These preformed perspectives help me to navigate through my life.  It can be personally challenging for anyone to entertain another perspective or opinion because we count on our prepackaged viewpoints.  I unconsciously give myself confirmation that what I see is the way it really is.  To consider another perspective or to go below the surface of my thoughts or beliefs, I would have to be very flexible.  This sort of shift creates an instability.  Few people are comfortable with instability.  I don’t want disruption and chaos.  No way!

Assuming that how I see something is the way it actually is, I rarely consider that you might see something entirely different and that to you, it is also true.

Contemplation:
If you went below the surface of your perceptions, what might you discover?

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Tending a Blog

When I first began writing this blog nearly two years ago, I had a direction in mind.  It was to write and share inspirational vignettes that would prompt you, the reader, to write.  Then, for about three months, I blogged about the final years of my parents lives.  Presently, I am allowing the blog to decide which direction it wants to go in next.  At this time, I don’t want to assign a theme.  Rather, I want to let the blog morph, to be a bit eclectic and finally to choose its own direction.  When I paint intuitively, that is precisely how a piece evolves and settles on what it is going to be.  So I guess this is an experiment of sorts.

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Having not blogged for a couple of months has provided a much needed immersion into grieving.  I have followed the breadcrumbs of grief to witness how I grieve.  I have noted how I sit with irrevocable change.  I participated in a two-month long grief group.  I’ve felt the safe womb space that we were held in apart from the rest of the world.  I noticed how we bonded into the commonness of the experience of losing a loved one(s).  I experienced a feeling of family with relative strangers.  At the end of each session, we hesitated  to leave the little room where we met.  This was without a doubt a safe place for each one of us to feel what we were feeling without masking it for the benefit of others.  Sacred space and time apart.

Years ago, I remember being in the workplace.  A fellow worker lost her husband suddenly.  She was given three days off of work to make arrangements and to grieve this profound loss.  I remember thinking how ridiculous it was to expect that she return to work without having that necessary time to grieve and comprehend the changes to her world.  I considered that she was initially in shock.  It takes awhile to  sink into the recognition that things would never be as they once were.  That he wouldn’t be coming home after work.  That they wouldn’t discuss the education and challenges of rearing their four children or their future plans…all evaporated in a moment.  I remember how she seemed to put on a mask for the benefit of her co-workers–was it heroic or something that she felt forced into–to pretend that she wasn’t a crumbling mess inside?

How do we educate ourselves and others on the significance of allowing grief into our lives?  In some cultures, the mourner wears black for a year.  When people in the community see this person, they understand, “Ah, he/she is in mourning.”  They do not expect you to “Get over it” or “Put on a happy face.”  Grief is recognized and honored as a tender time.  In grief, there is a certain vulnerability that the mourner experiences.  Sometimes you might want to hide away; other times you crave company.  Often, you need to talk about the loved one or your feelings of loss.  But only if you feel safe enough to do so.

That said, I can see how grief is a unique experience for any individual.  How do you tend your losses?  How do you grieve?

Your comments are welcome.

Who Do You Consult for Wisdom?

Truthfully, my parents weren’t my wisdom teachers, except perhaps through reversal.  And, reversal offers us some powerful lessons.  I didn’t go to them for guidance.  Throughout my life, I’ve gleaned wisdom from my own experience and through books and other teachers.

In contemplating who I consult for Wisdom, I discovered the term Wisdom Poetry.  It is  defined as “the type of poetry that contains some sort of moral or lesson, often written by an ancient scholar.”  Wisdom poetry is more of a theme rather than a branch of poetry itself.

Wisdom is sometimes personified, elusive creature that she can be.  Is she within?  Or dwelling in a cave on a mountain top far from where I live.  Tibet?  Nepal?  Or is she in the desert?  Zimbabwe?  Xanadu?  In the sky?  If only I could pinpoint the place, might I then be able to visit it, if only in my imagination?  Can I access her through my dreams?  Does he have a long white beard?  Do his eyes stare beyond the horizons of our own limited sight?

Is wisdom cumulative…I have these experiences and I hopefully learn from them.  I think that “real” wisdom is born of experience and that we integrate the lessons learned into how we live our daily lives.  And, perhaps wisdom has nothing to do with a person’s age although this wisdom poem below considers otherwise.

Wisdom
by Sara Teasdale

When I have ceased to break my wings
Against the faultiness of things,
And learned that compromises wait
Behind each hardly opened gate,
When I have looked Life in the eyes,
Grown calm and very coldly wise,
Life will have given me the Truth,
And taken in exchange my youth.

Writing Prompt:
Who do you consult for wisdom?