For Relief of the Body and Reconstruction of the Mind
Deep Winter is my favorite time of year to read and write. To sleep more. To sift through the notes and drafts of the year that just ended. To birth new things and give them time to unfold. Dig into big projects.
The above passage is from one of my favorite poems, “Planetarium,” by Adrienne Rich. Isn’t it powerful?
Maybe you are here in this life for the some of the same reasons I am here: To pay attention. To feel it all. To work with language to communicate and connect.
To “translate pulsations / into images for relief of the body / and reconstruction of the mind.”
To be a writer who does more than talk about their desire to get the words down, and then get them right.
To make things that move into the world, find readers or friends, and spur them to feel and see and wonder about things that you have felt and seen and wondered about.
This is an incomplete set of reasons to live, to write. Just the ones that occur to me now as the sun rises after a snowstorm and I realize I have a sliver of time in which to compose this letter to you. What is within us, must be drawn forth from the body and given form. Poetry is a process. In some ways it’s very concrete. I believe anyone can do it and receive the benefit of the experience. In other ways, it’s esoteric and hard to explain. To do it well can take more years of effort than most will be willing to give to the cause.
Some of us will give everything to it, though.
Is it alchemy? Magic? A form of channeling? Divination? Intuition? Is it as simple as saying what happened? Of recording the facts? Of taking notice. For me, it’s all of the above. Once we’ve acquired some of the basic tools, we have the power. A great and gratifying power.
A word after a word
after a word is power.
Poetry is only one way to move through the world, and to make sense of it—and if not sense, than at least an account of the sensation—but it is a way. For millennia, humans have practiced this art form, and its value and resonance remains, even in this era of faster, flashier, and more immediate forms of expression. The best poetry defies our appetite for speed. It cuts through the noise: it is a signal. It can moves us to new thoughts, feelings, actions. It can be a way of life and by that I don’t just mean that we can write poems as part of what we do and are while alive. I mean that I can be a person on whom nothing is lost. I can cultivate this way of looking, sensing, recording, thinking, feeling, being, and in doing so, bring more presence to my experience of being alive.
Registration is open for the 21 Day Poetry Challenge which runs March 1-21, 2019. Get the early bird price if you register by Valentines Day using code LOVE. Our theme this time is “Strange, Beautiful” and I’ve loved choosing poems to share with you during the challenge. They include selections from Tina Chang, Laura Kasischke, Franz Wright, Anne Carson, and Lydia Davis.
“This is my third (or 4th?) time taking your class and it is such a pleasure. I love receiving the emails each day, and incorporating this into my morning practice. I am finding that sometimes there’s a poem right then (as with the first one I’m sharing here), and other times the support of that structure helps me later on, as it did with the funeral poem I wrote. That one exposed some fury I didn’t even know I had, and again—I am grateful. For poetry, and for your gift in supporting the process.”—C.H., Poetry Challenge, 2018