Often I look back on my personal history with poetry, rather short though it is, and wonder if poetry came to me or if I came to poetry. It seems important for me to recall the arrival of poetry into my life. To define the relationship. To identify the nuances of its arrival. To mark and acknowledge life before, since and after it.
Saying yes to life as an artist, writer, poet changes things. I am Alice going behind the looking glass. I am peeling back layers of an onion-skinned world. I am a hunter-gatherer looking for food for my table. I am a guest every day and the world is my gracious host.
Poetry is a benchmark. A barometer. A lens. Poetry takes up a large space in my world. It colors the way I view and interpret life. I think poetry issued a goldleaf-edged invitation to me and clearly I responded “yes”. And in saying yes, I said yes to life.
It is raining as I play the computer keyboard with my fingertips tap, tap tapping while the rain mimics me. I am writing. As I type, memories bubble up of my days as a young girl sitting at the piano. Tapping out the letters, forming the words and phrases, spilling out poetry onto the page. I am a musician. Words are my instruments. Poetry is my music. The rain, like background music, sets the mood, blankets the morning with a wet gray deluge. Bathes the earth. Showers my world with heaven’s waterworks.
Running the world through the sieve of poetry highlights wonder. Adds dimension. Breathes life into still life. Poetry invites me to notice. To observe. To stall and to stare. But perhaps the greatest gift that comes with saying yes to poetry’s invitation is that it grants me the privilege of creating. Of contributing. Of making art. Poetry says be my guest. It opens a world, colors and shades it in fresh tones. Woos me in with its three dimensional beauty. Grants me space and a place with the heart of a hospitable host.
As an artist, as a co-creator, this is my medium of choice. By gift. Invited to take the hand of poetry, I have a place in the world as an artist. Invited to participate with other artists. Given the opportunity to co-create with The Creator. I am a poet. I have a place at the table. I am producing food for the soul. Soul-food. Take my art. Ingest it. And savor it. It is a gift. Because I have been given a gift.
How beautiful the gift of poetry. Poetry invites me to tilt and slant my lens. To look twice. On my first pass, I may miss the wonder and mystery. I may miss the whimsy. But poetry says come back with the eyes of artist. And really look. Drink it all in. Slow sips. Then big gulps. Then let the liquid rest on the edge of your mouth and seep in the cracks of your smile.
This is my invitation and this is yours too. To take sips and long gulps of the beauty and of the ordinary until it becomes extra-ordinary. To say yes to hearing, tasting, seeing and smelling life’s smallest nuances, hidden in the folds of life. To look for rhythm and rhyme. To form them too. To take the plain brown wrapping paper moments, wrap them in language, in poetry, until they are origami made of fine Italian writing paper.
Defining poetry is an illusive invitation. Accept it and try to pinpoint language. Edgar Allen Poe wrote, “I would define, in brief, the poetry of words as the rhythmical creation of Beauty.” While Plutarch says this of poetry: “Painting is silent poetry and poetry is painting that speaks.”
As a writer and artist, poetry allows me to paint my interpretation of God’s creation. With words. It gives me a brush with which to paint, capturing seconds and minutes of my God given life. With poetry, I can tell you my pain and my joy. Turn it on its head and slant it, so that I give you a glimpse and an invitation. You are not called to see it exactly as I do, but you are allowed to join me with your own interpretation. If I show you wonder, passion and feelings with my words, perhaps poetry will invite you to dig deeper into your own.
Robert Frost wrote, “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” When my words, emotions and humanness need a container in which to feel safe and held, poetry provides the porcelain blue vase. Or a patina copper antique pitcher. Poetry houses my art. Keeps it for safe keeping.
It is a giver of second chances. And do-overs. To live fully, vibrantly, hopefully, artfully, gracefully. And to continue to invite others to dig past the crustiness and dullness. To find the spark, the glimmers, the beauty. Always. To miss nothing of what God has designed for his people. To ingest it all with gratitude and joy.
“The poet doesn’t invent. He listens.” These words of Jean Cocteau remind me, and invite me. They call me into a life of listening and living with all of my senses fully engaged.
And I respond with an enthusiastic “yes.” Yes to going into the world of art, beauty, words and poetry. To embracing the God gift. To writing and to never stop wanting to capture the world with the net of my words. To invite the world into my world. And to promise that in it there will be poetry.
Writing poetry. Reading poetry. Living a life poetic. I am coming to the table and feasting on words. Poet Mark Strand wrote:
“Ink runs from the corners of my mouth. There is no happiness like mine.I have been eating poetry.”
Welcome to the banquet table. Welcome to the feast. Say yes to your invitation. Say yes to viewing God’s elaborate gift, the world, through the lens of poetry.
“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” — Leonard Cohen