10 Mar A Declaration of Poetry
WRITING IS A HEARTBEAT beating. All which live — the trees that give us breath, the plankton that illuminate the sea, I, you, we — vibrate to a single tune. Even the stars which live no more burn in the sky as smoldering flames, long after they’ve ceased.
We are one.
The living and the dead; the past and future; the now and then. Writing provides the single thread which weaves through the great quilt of meaning that wraps around our shoulders. Writing gives me purpose; it holds my life together.
There are countless writing styles, movements, do’s and don’ts that have come and gone throughout history. At its foundation writing is survival, a means to make sense of the age one lives in.
To not write, to not create, for those that have felt that touch of ecstasy which comes from tearing at their soul to produce — is to become burdened by the weight of life.
This world is more complex than we can possibly comprehend. What we see is seldom what we think it is. Yes, the world consists of material things, but just like you and me, these things are nothing but stories that have been spun.
Poetry unravels them.
As the 20th-century Imagist poet Ezra Pound (1885–1972) writes in A Few Don’ts:
“An ‘Image’ is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time.” (Pound, 1918)¹
This is the beating heart of poetry: to view the image, objective reality, not as just what’s on the surface. Rather, as something pulsing and alive, a diamond to be scrutinized, glistening from afar, yet of a different sort when studied from within.
The object changes. We change. There’s a give and take of meaning. Every moment, each interaction, every day we’re on this earth is an image to explore.
We ostensibly live in an objective world — we feel our body shiver when swimming across a freezing lake; a friend enters the car when she’s picked up at three in the morning. There is silence — a smile, breaking out in laughter.
These are actions. Things we do. But what about the words you wish to tell her? What kind of life is blooming beneath your freezing limbs? Dancing in our DNA are words not fit for a cage, but vying for a chance to shine, hoping that their day will come.
This thing we call life is a blend of material reality and all that lives in our thoughts as dreams; awake as we’re asleep and asleep while we’re awake — we’ve been given imaginations, creativity, color. Who’s to say the color’s really there?
This questioning of a rational and ethical world makes up the essence of Surrealism, an artistic movement made famous by such artists as Salvador Dalí (1904–1989) and René Magritte (1898–1967).
What if, what if, we’re on this earth to see the smile in her eyes — to feel the silent warming of the world before the day begins. To feel his warmth beneath the blankets or the chill of a starry night, when nothing but the moon is shining, and that’s enough to see the path ahead.
That’s enough to step forth into the darkness.
Surrealism provides the freedom to explore beyond our comprehension. The 20th-century Surrealist poet Federico García Lorca (1898–1936) writes in Ballad of the Moon Moon: ²
“How the night heron sings
how it sings in the tree
Moon crosses the sky
with a boy by the hand.” (Lorca, 1928)
The words we share expose the confines of the heart. Light, then, passes through, colors of incandescent shades — blue as the ocean and cool; red as fire, the desire to live; white, the purist of the light, and darkness too, floods through, to make the colors prominent.
I believe this is constant in poetry, as writing poetry allows the writer to merge often challenging topics with beauty through metaphor, imagery and lyricism, just like music.
The Confessional Poets of the mid 20th-century were known for their “voice-driven” poetry, like grabbing the reader by the hand and walking them through the garden of their soul. The poet Sylvia Plath (1932–1963) writes in The Moon and the Yew Tree:³
“The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary.
Her blue garments unloose small bats and owls.
How I would like to believe in tenderness —
the face of the effigy, gentled by candles,
Bending, on me in particular, its mild eyes.” (Plath, 1961)
Poetry leads us to the cave which we fear entering most — often the dark, cold, granite walls of our inner world. That’s all poetry has to be.
Not a sequence of words which adhere to a leading form of a certain age; not a lyrical masterpiece which rhymes and uses poetic devices. Poetry is a key to unlock ourselves, a means to explore what makes this life worth living.
The German writer, Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926) writes to an aspiring poet in his Letters to a Young Poet:⁴
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.” (Rilke, 1903)
Live the questions now.
That must be some of the best advice to anybody unsure of where their path will lead, confused by who they are, wondering how to find meaning in this world.
Someone like me.
Would we want to reach the finish line if given the choice? Would we want to have the answers as to what this life is supposed to mean, how we’re supposed to live, even, what might make us truly happy?
I don’t think so, for the search is the point.
The questioning, the seeking, the exploration — these things give our lives the experiences which connect us to one another, for we’re all just seekers, yet we search in different ways.
We communicate differently, think in myriad capacities, and connect the dots through treading different paths.
And then maybe we realize, I’m supposed to be over there! Or, this isn’t me at all. But if we’re willing to try, if we’re willing to fall, if we’re willing to learn, we will find our way.
I’ve found poetry, writing, and vulnerability to be a guiding light. No matter what path I embark on, I know at least the moon will guide me — for the moon is the mother, the teacher, the father of the poet — even through the darkest nights. We all have the poet in us.
Just look up.
Life seldom makes sense. Sometimes all we can do is take a step in a new direction, one that is disparate from the path we walked before. The same goes for writing.
There are rooms within our inner being that have never been explored, and until we try something that might be uncomfortable, we’ll never know the treasure that’s been locked away. Look no further than FLARF if you’re keen on going there.
“Flarf, by not providing a motherfucking note to tell you what it’s supposed to be, activates thought,” writes contemporary poet Drew Gardner in WHY FLARF IS BETTER THAN CONCEPTUALISM.(Gardner, 2010)⁵
“Flarf wants you… It’s smurfs watching Point Break while reading Finnegans Wake. You can’t help but like it, can you? It wants to play even dirtier.”
This is FLARF, and I don’t know what to make of it, but I think I love it.
It can be intimidating to write poetry, with all the rules and devices and structure. FLARF does away with them and says let your heart spill on the page in the most audacious way you can imagine.
Better than less than more than — are our differences so important that they’re worth the fight? Or, is it enough to simply want to make some music; to want to sing, dance, to play or run or swipe at a blank canvas.
Is it enough, simply longing to create, to put the pen to page, thoughts that may change, dice and rearrange to show a mind that’s aged. How beautiful this world could be if we could stop to smell the roses; how magical, if we could collectively breathe the air and question why we’re here on earth.
The first drop of ink which smears across the page takes you to the cave you fear. To see the empty darkness and feel it crawl atop your shoulders. It grabs you by the waist and asks for a dance — tango with your shadow, flamenco with your demons, and see, just wait and see, what you can do.
What rises up from those dark depths — is poetry — for it’s everything and nothing.
Poetry’s your heartbeat beating.
Hanging in the sky,
It always comes back to this
The orange light, the cold air that screams
As if looking at another world
Like a punch in the face
Wake the fuck up.
Again and again
Dreaming about the same old things
What you let go of to be somebody else
That feeling in the body, cold sweat, subtle twitch, darkness growing,
It’s impossible to move.
That pain in your chest aches, the pit of your stomach feels
Like it’s twisting, but I don’t know which way to go to make it seem
Aching, for something you can never have
Waking from one dream and listless in
Faster it beats
The rhythm of the song as I turn the knob and feel the tears fall
Down my cheeks, nobody but me, the safeness
Of the car, ripped seat, roaring cocoon, I want to scream
But there’s nobody but me; so I do.
Faster it beats
The heart when the eyes move
Faster it beats
Chances missed never the next
It always comes back to this.
How do we make space to change?
The body shivers when alone
Never, been in this time and space,
Never, knew you could run this far. Away from the pain that you feel
In your legs, because the pain is worth the pain
Of never running again.
Never, cried for the first time.
Melting are the fears,
When the sky hangs there
Gently I wake,
The dream is over.
Is reality fixed
or a simultaneous creation
and human will. Joining forces
like fire and water
The pressure in
the air consumed.
The weight turns
or dust. Mine
Concurrently creates. Stepping
So that’s it,
I see your face when I’m asleep,
ties cut but I can hear your laugh, keeping me awake.
I wonder why I can’t look
at myself, a human metamorphosis,
supposedly it’s aging,
further from a reality
no more real than the dream I see you in.
You’re out there, and maybe you remember,
growing up together,
we shared a room, on the top bunk you hovered over me;
I didn’t know it then, but your presence was protection.
You talked on the phone late at night, shut the fuck up,
I thought, but seldom did we fight. My hero on the court,
You could dunk, my friends were jealous, you inspired me to soar.
At least to try, step from my comfort zone;
my brother, friend — you know I never felt alone.
I wish I could find you. But I’m afraid to try.
It scares me, what I’ve become, no different from back then,
undisclosed to anyone is the thought that that was it,
the day you went away,
a kid, left with nothing but questions,
and a hole in my heart that will always be for you.
You shaped me, man, I saw in you no fault,
only that of someone trying
to find their way in an unforgiving world.
I’ve grown up now. The age you were back then.
I see that you were trying,
like I know what it means; but we have to let go, right,
come to terms with times that change. That doesn’t mean that
I’ll forget. Doesn’t mean I’ve stopped loving you.
So that’s it,
we exist within our memories,
which change with our reality,
you’ll always be my brother,
I don’t know how to say goodbye.
While walking around noon,
I looked up and
the chalky silver half
moon in the sky grabbed me.
During the day, there’s a rock, floating not on the earth,
but IN THE SKY.
Day is only perception; it means
nothing to the rock.
Outer space. And I’m walking,
thinking about who knows what;
behind the bristly green pine tree
I see the floating moon.
Half of it is dark, camouflaged as sky;
I walked across the street and
looked at it.
Probably for two minutes.
And then went about walking
It’s still up there, bright, now;
What can possibly be out there?
Will Armageddon bring us together
to destroy an asteroid?
People dedicate their lives
to studying, exploring, space.
The empty blackness
floating outside the ship.
something in the lack of air goes wrong, and you start to drift.
Is there something like a cyanide pill
to take if that happens? Are there jet packs on your shoes?
A rose has lost its petals,
dark now, the color of wine opaque,
amongst the garden’s grass.
A button stitched by
hand, not of thy maker’s,
but of a seamstress, known to me
through my neighbor’s son.
Whispers louder than
the room can bear,
silence, deeper than the chairman’s
takes hold of the crowd,
conveys all that can’t be said.
To write about what’s
right, everything —
which make the soil,
emerge from the sea as a great
ship. Life, closer
to the sun.
Floating birds eclipse the ship,
the orange sky.
roll across the face of earth,
waves of light and water;
why, was this cognition to us given,
so that we watch the waves
but never ride them.
So that we may dream and
never leave our bed.
So that we may think,
yet lock the words in cages.
What’s the point then;
to live. We’re on this earth to live.
My hands come together and ground me; the hands together fuse the sky and the sea, calm and ferocious, chaotic and serene.
A blend of masculine and feminine, dark and light, sky and sea and earth and fire, dancing within our cells. The hands together unify. Congruent energy flows throughout one’s arms and legs and eyes and into the world.
The hands come together before a meal and hover above the table, graciously accepting the food before it’s eaten. They grab hold of the wheel, the pen, the tool, the brush — the hands of another human being.
They open a book and turn the page before the final cover closes.
Adorned in gold, amethyst, and topaz, then naked in nothing at all, they lift the binding of another story, where the words imprinted are imbibed and infuse with the desires of the soul, for anything you long to be dwells within those pages.
The hands are scratched and burnt; they heal the self and those who need it. They make peace and they fight and forget when they have fumbled. Take your hand and feel your heart, for its beating is music; its radiance is the fire to warm you on the coldest nights.
The fire’s ever-changing, a stationary sway of chaos.
But when you look into the flame, it’s not just burning colors. What dances is a story, the times that you have hurt, the moments when you cried, the richness of the past, glowing in the swaying flame.
Because you feel it now, you’ve changed, and that’s to be embraced.
We as individuals are a continual process. The earth is in a state of constant flux. The meaning derived from every moment, every experience — even from the ones we think we know so well — shift — grow.
Nothing is fixed.
Perhaps that means nothing more than acknowledging how interesting life can be.
The Pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus is known for saying:
“No man steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
Heraclitus was a native of Ephesus, a city that was then part of the Persian Empire, modern Turkey. He posited the idea that all of life comes from fire.
The Pre-Socratic philosophers questioned the initial — the essential — substance of the universe. Thales believed the source of life was water, and Anaximenes believed it was air. From the elements, everything flows.
The Pre-Socratic philosophers were those who came before Socrates, the famous Greek who lived in the 5th-century BC and is recognized for his persistent questioning. He wrote nothing, and all that we tell of what he said comes from Plato’s writings — Plato was his pupil.
According to the University of Toronto professor John Vervaeke, Plato was a wrestler and was given the nickname of Plato, meaning ‘broad,’ perhaps because of his stature or the breadth of his eloquence.
Imagine not just the ideas which we associate with these mountainous minds — imagine being in the same room as Plato. Imagine getting into a passionate debate by the edge of the glistening Aegean Sea with Socrates.
What could it have been like?
History, philosophy, studying the past — what makes it so interesting to me is that in one way or another, a man named Socrates walked around the docks of Athens — Plato and Aristotle conversed in the dirt beneath a tree in the sweltering heat; they laughed and shared ideas between the white columns of Plato’s Academy.
These ideas laid the foundation of Western thought. However, the concept of impermanence pertains to Eastern tradition as well. The 20th-century psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm writes in his classic To Have or To Be:
“Living structures can be, only if they become. They can exist, only if they change. Change and growth are inherent qualities of the life process. Heraclitus’ radical concept of life as a process and not as a substance is paralleled in the eastern world by the philosophy of the Buddha. There is no room in Buddha’s thought for the concept of any enduring permanent substance. Neither things nor the self. Nothing is real but processes.”
Hundreds of times, I’ve watched the sunlight slowly turn the morning sky from black to blue as it transitions to dawn.
It feels like any other day — but I am not the same man; a day older perhaps, and I carry yesterday’s decisions on my back, and I look to the future as a strange dream, where I hope to one day wake.
Yet we’ll always only be in our present state. So why think about the future?
It rained hard in the middle of the night. I couldn’t sleep, as much as I tried. As I listened to the pouring rain, I couldn’t help but lie there smiling in bed. I thought of time and this story as I listened to the falling water.
The sound, each individual drop which rattled in the gutter and pattered on the roof, told me time is passing. You can just listen to that for ever — the world’s turning, the clouds moving, the darkness lifting, the earth growing.
There’s something to be said about truly seeing this as worth it.
MEANING & PERCEPTION
Who knows what this is? An inter-dimensional enigma. And we’re thrown into it, not of our doing.
The late-19th-early 20th century German philosopher Martin Heidegger called this thrownness, being arbitrarily thrown into the here and now, not a hundred years ago or a million, not in the future — but here, now, in this body and soul, at this particular season of the earth’s floating in space.
So the excavation begins, as we ourselves are the mystery waiting to be solved. It’s okay to be imperfect, human, nuanced like Heraclitus’ river, which never flows in perfect serenity.
I don’t think perfection’s what we really want. Or maybe that’s what I tell myself because it just doesn’t seem… possible? While retaining a sense of joy for this experience.
Perfection is a fixed point, unsurpassable, immutable. I’d rather live the rugged journey.
This journey, this process, has brought us from fish to mammals, according to evolutionary biologists and inspiring power couple Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying, in their recent book, A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century:
“When bone, a molecular relative of teeth, showed up as internal skeletal material, rather than as armor, replacing the cartilage that came before it, we became Osteichthyes — bony fishes. We are also, still and forever, eukaryotes, animals, vertebrates, craniates. Group membership never disappears, but an organism will try to pass as something it’s not, if enough of its traits transform. We are nucleate, heterotrophic, vertebral, brainy, bony fish. We are fish.”
We are fish, looking into each other’s eyes. We see a fire raging, a soul seeking, an imperfectly beautiful, eternally changing human fish.
Although now our fins are disguised as hands which cash a check.
Don’t turn back now, you’ve made it.
You’ve touched the golden light which falls behind the purple clouds. You’ve seen the way the colors shimmer, draped across the shore.
We exist in becoming — the world transitions from day to dusk, from dusk to night, from night to dawn and dawn to day.
It’s a constant movement forward, and sometimes we forget how to just appreciate the world’s becoming. The changing seasons. Our seasons change too.
But the world still feels the same, because the books haven’t moved from the shelf and the room’s the same, and the reflection in the mirror stares back and studies, looking for the day from dawn, the dusk from day, although we haven’t moved, haven’t pushed against the walls of our soul, haven’t stepped down the stairwell of our heart, haven’t looked into the sky of our perception.
The grass grows green and the waves break and roll to the shore.
Man, it feels good to just roll with them and cherish life for what it is. A rolling rock, a crashing wave, the lightning in the sky. But we’re human, and it hurts to break.
On my walk back home from the beach, the shadow projects on the hill from the light of the oncoming car.
The daylight shifts, and the world becomes shadows. Imagine a world without the light. No orange lamps to illuminate the road; the empty road. Only the light of the moon, with beasts and people, like us, crawling through the hills, thousands, millions of years ago.
The mind, especially, is constantly moving.
The mind moves with one’s attention. The breath is never the same breath, not with the same air rolling through it. But it’s something to return to, a sort of home for the wandering mind.
It’s nice to sit in the quiet.
The silence changes when you listen to the sounds. The gurgling of bubbles in the pot of boiling water pop and let out steam. It rises and warms the room.
The lights come on and flicker in the sky. Morning comes. We’re alive.
¹ Pound, Ezra. “‘A Retrospect’ and ‘a Few Don’ts’ by Ezra Pound.” Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Accessed March 9, 2022. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/69409/a-retrospect-and-a-few-donts.
² Lorca, Federico García. “Ballad of the Moon Moon by Federico García Lorca.” Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Accessed March 9, 2022. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/89729/ballad-of-the-moon-moon.
³ “Sylvia Plath — the Moon and the Yew Tree.” Genius. Accessed March 9, 2022. https://genius.com/Sylvia-plath-the-moon-and-the-yew-tree-annotated.
⁴ Rilke, Rainer Maria. Letters to a Young Poet. Garden City, NY: Ixia Press, an imprint of Dover Publications, 2021.
⁵ Gardner, Drew. “WHY FLARF IS BETTER THAN CONCEPTUALISM.” Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Accessed March 9, 2022. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet-books/2010/04/ill-steal-your-poets-like-i-stole-your-bike.