Monday, September 5, 2011

Writing a Poem as a Sacred Act, Part 1

The urge to keep a journal and write poems seized me early. Inspired by several years when my family lived on a farm in Kansas, I penned this preteen masterpiece: "The most beautiful time in Kansas, I think/Is when the sky turns shades of blue, gray, and pink/This is the time when the breezes are few/And this is the time when the insects are, too." Luckily, keeping on does refine one's sensibilities and craft! Yet even in this juvenile rhyme, there's a seed of the reverence I've always felt for nature, for the way it becomes the Teacher if we can really be quiet and listen.

I carry a journal on airplanes and hikes, to mountaintops, beaches, and foreign countries. A poem is such a good way to distill the essence of a confusing or inspiring experience by blending actual detail with feeling to find the core spiritual message. After the last line mysteriously appears, as though from some inner master, I often feel sublimely wide-eyed, relieved, and wiser.

There have been times when a poem pressured me insistently, practically screaming at me to pull the car over and get a pen and paper from my purse. Then it would explode out in a rhythm all its own like a frilly belch or series of comical hiccups. At other times, I'd hear a phrase that felt like a first line, though I had no idea what the poem might be about. Sometimes a round bulge in my solar plexus would rise slowly to my chest, exciting me, and I'd know there was something that wanted to be said. If I could listen closely, and feel for the rhythm, the opening line would slide out, like a baby from the birth canal, setting the tone for the rest to flow upon.

Writing a poem is such a fascinating and magical thing. So often the words aren't there at first. It's just a mood that captures the whole body, and the mood is like a blueprint that patterns the mind and filters the words. If I stay in it, merged and a servant, the pattern picks the particular flow of sounds. The first thought is often only one plain garment that wraps itself around the meaning the poem seeks to reveal. The whole costume comes into view only because I start to dress myself—the lacy blouse leads to the short socks and black flats, to the purple slacks, to the long scarf, to the rakish beret. Et, voila! Zee outfit!

cool breeze
warm fire
full moon
easy chair
empty plates
soft words
sweet songs
tall tales
short sips
long life

Copyright by Penney Peirce 2011