Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The whole house smells like jasmine tea and I am contemplating the reasons I shouldn’t go Christmas shopping at the moment. I sent two more copies of the manuscript off yesterday. Funny how it gets easier, this being a poet. I feel that way about being a human sometimes, that the more comfortable I grow in my skin the easier it becomes.

This past weekend I had my cards read. I have this wonderful reader who isn’t the scary kind of reader with scarves and a crystal ball but more of the wise woman, tea kind of gal. I like that. A good reading feels like the focusing of a lens and though I don’t believe in hocus pocus I do believe that everything is energy, thought, action. We send out into the universe what we need and the universe as a good conductor sends it back.

Anyway, she said the universe wanted to talk to me about my work which considering the last time I had my cards read four years ago, where the universe wanted to tell me to get the hell of out of my marriage, meant things were looking up. She said the book will do well. Hell that was worth the price of admission. She said, Teresa, deep down you know who you are, you will always know this. You know you have to write and that’s the job you’ve been given. The praise or criticism that ultimately comes from that has nothing to do with the act itself.

Strangely, that felt incredibly freeing. I will be read. I will be published. (Well unless she lied;) And I have the freedom to write, whatever and how ever I want and though, in my head that’s how I believe great art is made, sometimes as a writer, I pull into the room, in the act of creating, the reader. The reader’s expectations, desires. I’m beginning to see the reader does not belong in the birthing room, that’s not the place at all. Posted by Picasa


Support for Sobriety said...

Ah, that last line. Just what I needed. I will post it above my desk. Thank you.

Lyle Daggett said...

Many years ago -- I was not quite 17 -- a man named Joe Zimbrolt (a professor of philosophy or humanities or something like that, I think -- I was never sure exactly what he did) spent a summer meeting with a group of us -- all high school age -- to talk about ideas. We met and sat on the lawn on the Macalester College campus.

One afternoon Joe told a story about the writer Goethe. As a young man, Goethe fell in love with an older, married woman. It was a hopeless love, it wasn't going to happen, he was crushed, heartbroken, desolate. Goethe decided to commit suicide.

But then, instead of committing suicide, Goethe wrote a novel (his early short novel The Sorrows of Young Werther), written as an exchange of letters, about a young man who falls in love with an older married woman, sinks into despair and (in the novel) the young man commits suicide.

After the book was published, there was a sudden outbreak of young men all over Germany committing suicide.

Sometime after Joe told the story, at some point during one of the discussions that summer, I said something about the famous Zen koan about the sound of one hand clapping. Joe told the story about Goethe again.

Art, Joe said, is a transformation. The artist takes in experience and perception in the world, transforms it within, and puts it back out into the world as a painting, a dance, a song, a novel, a poem. Sometimes the finished work is able to recreate the artist's experience in other people who look at the painting, or hear the song, or read the poem.

(The example of Goethe is a little extreme -- a full re-creation of experience doesn't necessarily result in mass suicide. The essential point is that art convey's the artist's experience to other people who experience the art.)

Writing the poem is the sound of one hand clapping. Sometimes a reader finds identity in the poem; what the poet brings to the poem and what the reader brings to the poem meet, and touch; that, then, is the sound of the other hand clapping.

The poet has no control over who may find identity in the poem, or how that may play out; the reader (as you so wonderfully put it) does not belong in the birthing room. The poet's responsibility is to grasp and communicate the experience, and to say it; to tell the truth no matter what.

Radish King said...

Um, when exactly does it start getting easier?

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