Tuesday, 15 November 2011

for that I came

As king fishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves -- goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came...

David Whyte quotes this section of a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem in the talk recorded on Thresholds. He's talking about being in South Africa, looking at a kingfisher, in the context of the idea that human beings are 'the one corner of creation that can refuse to be itself'.  'It is,' he says, 'an absolute triumph for a human being just to be themselves'.

...when you're trying to arrange the world according to your own machinations and in accordance with the rules you have learnt so assiduously, you're constantly disappointed. Whereas when you base your life on revelation, on the fact that everything in fact has its own essence and is attempting to speak with you in its own voice, there's an astonishing beauty in the world, which is a revelation and a healing force, in and of itself. 

One of the diagnostic features of stress is that you lose your taste, you lose your savour, you lose your ability to see the minute miracles of creation... (paraphrased).

He talks about poets trying to shake themselves out of themselves, 'to arrange to get tired of themselves so that they can see the world again... to get fed up of everything they've been saying about themselves, and about the world...'.

Listening to him talk, to his reading a stunning poem about salt (!), I wonder why I can't write words like those he is reading. I compare my simple ideas about making marks on paper (last post) and/but see that it is at least partly not what we might think from the outside, ie. 'that 'I am just not talented enough' etc'. I am certainly not able to write such arresting words, but it might be worth thinking about the idea that those elegant, dense, rich, unexpected words may not come from 'talent', but from a stronger connection with a deep current which flows strongly within everyone, but which for most us is almost completely (and habitually) out of reach.  

I have been a stranger to that current in myself for over 30 years. It's not surprising that my words are baby steps, nothing unexpected. Instead of judging them, criticising them, I could marvel that words have appeared at all. Surely this is a beginning. How else to reach down towards that current, other than blindly, by instinct, with hope and clumsiness? 

Then he quotes some lines from Patrick Kavanagh, which made me think of what I was trying to saying in that post about the mark.

Me I will throw away
Me sufficient for the day
The sticky self that clings
Adhesions on the wings
To love and adventure,
To go on the grand tour
A man must be free
From self necessity.... 



  1. You're doing that comparison thing again? Don't forget:

  2. Hello Jim! Yes, that's it, isn't it, that's what the critic does, it's one of the most powerful ways she functions... I don't condone it, I note it, as part of my continuing attempts to observe this process. For sure my critic is much, much more powerful than I realised when I wrote that post. Sometimes I can silence her, but she seems to sneak around from unexpected places. Especially when I try new things, like writing new kinds of words.

    Have you any ideas about how to drive a stake into her heart once and for all? I'm not optimistic about seeing her off completely, but would welcome any thing you have....



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