Poems and People

 my beautiful mom walking deacon to school
my beautiful mom at my dad's law school graduation

Carolyn Forche, author of The Country Between Us in 1980, wrote poems about her experiences in El Salvador as a 28-year-old journalist caught in the middle of a civil war.  Though called "political" by some critics, the poems are in fact unbearably intimate and personal.  They do not capitalize on a terrible situation to make a poem; they use the beauty of language to find affirmation under even the most abhorrent conditions, an "archivist of the incomprehensible". She writes:  "There is nothing one man will not do to another."  Forche claims that all poetry is political, as it is inevitable a product of the time and place in which it was written.  She insists, though, that "political" poets are no "less poetic because they had a subject matter and were naively representational.  I say that rather than reading these poems as representational, we can read them as evidence of the wound -- as what happened to the language when these things happened to the poet and the poet's world."  This understanding of the political is in accord with Hannah Arendt's idea: "To be political, to live in a polis [means] that everything [is] decided through words and persuasion and not through force and violence.  In Greek to force people by violence, to command rather than persuade, were pre-political ways to deal with people characteristic of life outside the polis.  Poetry at once is affected by politics and effects its change, as Shelley has written:  "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world."

As I am myself a work in progress, I strive toward "legislator".  I seek to be in continuous motion out of the confinements of definition and form to a place where purposes are real and methods are issues of morality.  By dealing with personal and political issues of marriage, motherhood, career, religion, race, and the sociological bonds we experience through such relations I am attempting to live and write in motion, so others are moved to action by action.  By being faithful to the temporal, hence moving (as dictated by time) I am unbridled by a desire for autonomy.  Unlike the authority of the autonomous "I" descended from Wordsworth and that branch of British Romanticism, I move towards a freedom that enables me to understand Coleridge's "Dejection Ode," or the negative capability of Keats and what he meant when he said that the poet must be Nobody.

My sincerity is born out of keen emotion towards life, for anything less then life is not alive. Anything short of action is corruption.  In this movement towards life Craft is nothing; sincerity is everything.  It is possible that we can take the most horrifying experience and transform it.  Say it clearly and honestly and it becomes beautiful.

Coming from the influences of Keats who when I was 13 told me what the poet must be; Whitman has taught me what to give; Williams defined imagination and showed me the living lineage of Beauty as partial and convulsive in his essays and especially in Spring and All and Patterson.  Stein's courageous Composition as Explanation taught me a syntax dedicated to the processes of time in time with "continuous present"; Creeley showed me how reading and writing must not subordinate the present historical moment to the past and the idea of line and duration of perception; and Susan Howe illustrated how to be a redactor, someone who revises a book by simply reading.  I have come to oppose the urge towards false unities in artistic practice and in life in general.  Honesty and clarity are the qualities that connect other humans deeply to each others experiences, and one can only be honest when living.  My tribe may find my philosophies flawed, however, as long as I am involved in a perpetual becoming it compels them to act.  "Poetry itself, great poetry, never empowers a singular perspective."  Such methods of life and composition refuse to limit any part of what we call Being.

The souls of poems and persons do not rest in form or shape.  They go.  We follow.  We read to go where poetry has gone and to preserve the possibility of a delightful contact.  The generosity of these artistic practices broaden the available reality and so take definition from the living action of the soul. We must look, "for/ christ's sake, look/ out where yr going"--Robert Creeley (I Know a Man). Language is vehicular and transitive, and is good for conveyance, not for homestead.  It is good to be going, and some poems or people can show the way.  Life in itself is going, time is constantly going. In these two photos you can see the ageless youth of my mom has been altered by that thief time. Actually, she is not ageless.

I love poetry that moves, for it makes me more comfortable in this constantly moving existence. My Mom cannot be my homestead, rather she is my conveyance for peace. Peaceful Vana moving through time and space. 


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