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Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Of Words and Souls
I wonder if my soul has words written on it. And if it does, what words are they? As I've been walking through the worlds of Virginia Woolf and Charles Williams and Neil Gaiman, I always have a book of poetry going. Poetry where a poet, in the space of a page, can make me ponder love, life, the Cosmos, loss, sex, our place in the Universe and Nature, the color blue, mythology, history, God. Maybe in the space of three stanzas. Can do what it takes novelists 500 pages to do. Condense the soul into words, just a few, and make it speak.
Because a poem is made up of words, speech is how the soul is embodied. (Frank Bidart, from an interview at the end of "Metaphysical Dog.")
Sometimes when I read something that someone I know writes, I can hear their voice saying their words. At its best, I feel like my writing has my voice, my speech, my soul embedded in it. You want to see what my soul looks like? Can you see it in my eyes? Is my soul blue? Or could I better show it in something I've written, something that feels like everything I have to say, or have said yet. Can my soul live on a page, or on a screen, separate from me, created by itself? Or can you hear it in my voice? Tricky fu**ers, these souls. How can we get our arms around them?
Whatever it takes to get the whole soul into a poem. (Bidart, same interview)
Last evening, we were sitting on a dock on the Tred Avon River. A heron flew by overhead and landed by the shore. We have established that herons do enough for me that I have one tattooed on my arm. I've talked about herons as my spirit animal on here before. Watching a heron fly, with its legs kicked back long behind it; then watching it transition, ungracefully to land; and then to see them still, balanced, stoic in the water. I wonder if something outside of you, observed by you, can speak your soul? I wonder if my soul could be captured in that clumsy transition from air to water, when the legs come down and arrest forward momentum, both looking improbable, but working every time. My ungraceful, improbable, functional soul.
The words, like a bonfire encased
in glass, glowed on the horizon.
Can a soul be contained in words? Are words written on the soul of one who writes? If words are connected to the soul, maybe they would look like a bonfire encased in glass, glow(ing) on the horizon.
But I think Bidart's right. That's the creative struggle. To get the whole soul into the poem, the painting, the art. Maybe words, maybe art, maybe love is how the soul speaks to another or to itself.