Category Archives: art
I pick the book up from its assigned resting spot and attempt to flip through its pages. Each one sticks to the next. I can’t for the life of me get them separated. I fiddle with the edges. I try and slide the corner. I gather a handful of pages hoping the random shuffle will loosen the page I want. No luck. Thunk, thunk, thunk, go the chunks of text.
Clearly, no one has freed this book from its hot-off-the-presses status. But how… without licking my fingers? Such a Pre-Covid thought, that. In my bag I have a contraband water bottle, perhaps some moisture from that? Or maybe my gloves with fingertips designed to slide a screen would do the trick, but where are the?
Oh good grief. Yes, yes I did it. Surreptitiously, I dot my index finger with a dab of saliva and successfully work one page away from the other. Crinkle, crinkle, slide. There it goes. One page down. Only 373 more to go.
(I had the same experience at Harris Teeter yesterday, trying as I might to release the grip of the plastic bag opening without defaulting to stripping my mask from my nose and mouth and licking my fingers. Suffice to say, after setting my two gala apples on the cart left by the produce manager in order to recruit both hands for the task, I finally gave up and set both the apples and the unopened plastic bag in the bottom of my basket.) But I digress…
Today I pick up the same book from its assigned resting spot, but this one is in a different location. A more traveled location. A more popular spot. This book, I know right away, has had many visitors stop by for a visit. Its pages fall easily, one from the other. Its surfaces are crinkled and easy to grip. Its printed words seem to invite me in:
Look here and over here. Turn to this page, now that. Oh, here's something you'll like! Wherever you want to go, I am with you. Just as I have been here for all those who have sat where you are sitting and accepted my invitation to excursion through my pages.
I had what seemed an odd thought just then…
I would much rather be this book than the other, the one so seldom opened. I prefer risking a ragged interaction or two to sitting idle in a forgotten corner or at arms reach from an uninterested patron. I would rather be a book that’s read, that’s sung from, that’s paged through. I would rather be dog-eared, crinkled, scribbled upon or even mended after a bout of overly enthusiastic use, than pristine and shimmering, on display in some out-of-the-way spot gathering dust but inspiring no interest, no interaction, no comment.
Yes, me and that Velveteen Rabbit, we’ve done some communing over the years.
A toy, played with, is beloved. Real, even.
A book, read and re-read, beloved, too. Alive, even.
I wanna be that kind of book.
Some people are just showy. They strut their stuff and it’s good. No matter what they wear, it draws attention. And whatever they do, it’s news. They are the trend-setters. All eyes are on them. And they revel in the limelight. The good gaze of an adoring and appreciative audience.
My beautiful hydrangea is one of these. Watering can in hand, I marveled as I approached the plant to give it a drink. How glorious its blooms shone in the rise of the morning sun. The lavender luster of the largest stole the show.
As I drew closer, a smaller, pinker display invited me to look. Not yet fully bloomed, this pink one had potential. The water droplets on its delicate petals winked at me. Just wait, they seemed to say, we’re gonna be gorgeous.
As I drew nearer to give the stems a drink, I noticed a burgeoning floral bundle I had nearly missed. Its bushy lavender petals were mostly hidden from view by the lush greenery. Only when I pulled them aside could I appreciate its beauty. It wasn’t hiding; it was just happy to be beautiful under the foliage. Away from the bright sun. As if it had chosen not to compete with its showier siblings.
It was in full bloom. Stunning in its beauty, yet happy, right where it was. Doing its right thing.
Oh, to be satisfied with that.
What is it about poetry that “gets us right there?” It’s National Poetry Month, so I am asking.
Dr. Raphael Campo, a poet and physician at Harvard Medical school, puts it this way: “When we hear rhythmic language and recite poetry, our bodies translate crude sensory data into nuanced knowing — feeling becomes meaning.”
Imagine, a poet-physician arriving at nuanced knowing, the very place where feeling becomes meaning. It seems almost impossible doesn’t it? That our bodies are the translators. But who better than the ones who study the body to heal the body, to interpret the language it begets?
Not just the lub-dub, lub-dub in the rhythm of a heart beating. Surely, its beats per minute indicating healthy or not. Its volume signaling functional or not.
Not just the whoosh in, whoosh out of the respiring lungs. Their filling and emptying is surely essential to the operation of the organism.
Not just the electronic whir of signal transmission of the brain. And not just the regular pulse of blood through the arteries.
Not just and yet I can’t help but think that rhythm recognizes itself. Knows its kin. Tunes in and pays special attention to its own. That the body responds to poetry because the body is poetic. Lyrical. Creation set in motion. Without prompting or instruction, the toddler sways, the child twirls, the partners step toe to toe.
Just so, my soul recognizes and delights in rhythm. But there’s more to the poetic than rhythm. And that’s why it begs us to read it aloud, recite it, hear it spoken or performed. Verbalized, the poetic allows us to both gather the outline and sketch in the details. To give shape to the form and pour in the color. To chew and swallow, taste and smell. To bring it to life.
Just as the mind does for a well-told story. We know it. We feel it. It has meaning for us and uniquely to us. It draws out what is true from within us, and speaks urgently to our “right now.” Because that’s what we bring to it. And blessedly, so blessedly, we can all gather around poetry because there is not just one right answer.
Mind you, not just willy-nilly words will do this. It’s the culled, cultivated, carefully chosen words that settle deep. The true poet uses words and phrases expertly arranged with an ear for rhythm, a sense of style, how one word will relate to the next, and a feeling for how they will settle on their hearers. Though we each receive them in a slightly different way, if we dare to attend without withholding, poetry has the potential to wake up the poetic in us. To shed light in our darkness, to lift burden from our bearing, and to clarify our way into each new day.
We are all poets. Words animated. Sculpted from the raw materials gifted at first light. Honest words if we are brave enough. And so helpful in their moment to get us through our moment.
How does poetry work on us? as art... it feels I feel everything. I feel the loud. I feel the crush of bodies. I feel the eyes on me. I feel the distance between us. I feel the, no one is talking to me. I feel the, everyone has a friend but me. I feel the invisible. I am invisible. Let me go. I'll be going. I'll show myself out. Hey, what's your name? she called, as I turned to leave. I'm Deborah. I want to meet you. Wendy, I tell her. I was almost Wendy, she says, Until my mother's mother in law said I couldn't be. I love the name, Wendy. I've always wanted to be Wendy. Wendy suits you. So glad to meet you. I feel the quiet. I feel the smile. I feel the distance close. I feel the visible. I am visible.
Oh, Dear Poetry, you reach in and touch the deepest parts of us. May we be brave enough to endure it and bold enough to believe it so we can proudly proclaim it.