Category Archives: art
What is it about poetry?
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.
What makes art, art?
What makes art, art? What makes worship, worship? What makes beauty, beautiful? what wants to be expressed? longs to come out, to be displayed, to be offered, as gift of delight, inspiration or awe. what wants to take shape? to be recognized, to be known, to be understood, as the beauty, the spark, that responds. The. Oh! Ahh... Yesss! of art, worship, beauty, the trinity of emotion, drawing out the hidden, invisible, still. unlike the cough, which the tickle propels, unlike the sneeze, which the dust mite ignites, unlike even the rage, which erupts from the hurting No. This. This calls from outside, from elsewhere, to neither erupt, propel or ignite It calls out, calls up, evokes and elicits; It compels, yes, without my permission, yet absent inhibition. I gasp. I startle. I laugh. Where did you come from? Flowing from me but surely not of me; Yet, not a surprise to me. this joy this awe this wonder This worship This oneness This humanity The hidden, invisible and still, has been waiting inside me For what art sees what beauty says what God does to bring me to life.
More than a view: the spiritual practice of noticing
Looking out from our back porch, a visitor to our new home once lamented, “Too bad they left those trees to spoil your view.” She was referring to a stand of three pines left as remnants of the thick foliage that once covered our lot.
Now, this is the view.
Plenty to take in. It is marvelous, show-stopping, in fact. And by my account, it is not at all spoiled by the trees. Actually, it’s enhanced by the them. Yes, because they add color, texture and dimension, but also because they form a frame for my daily animation. They provide branches for the bluebirds to perch on and peck at, a stage from which the cardinals often sing, a scurrying course for the squirrels at play and even an occasional roost for a resting heron.
Yes, very far from spoiling our view, the trees enhance it. No, I don’t have an unobstructed view of the lake and its backdrop, but I do have a close-up look at the natural world that’s before me. As if I am part of it as it proceeds. Not just a viewer, but a participant.
I confess that I did wonder whether there would come a time when I would pass by the view of the lake with little thought, as if it were simply a painting hanging in my hallway, just a thing to be shown off to visitors when they came over.
Perhaps, if it were just a view. But its more than just a view; it’s a scene. And more than just a scene, it’s a setting for the characters which take the stage each day in my backyard. For goodness sake, it’s live theater! …with an unseen crew who regularly adjusts lighting and weather conditions, not to mention welcoming seasonal color changes in delightful hues.
My view is so much more than something to look at. It’s a marvel to appreciate. The shimmer of sun off the still water. Quivering reflections after the wind disturbs the surface. The overlapping V’s in the wake of happy mallards paddling smartly along and suddenly the startling splash of a diving osprey and then the wriggle of its prey as it carries it away.
Yes, animation calls to me. It insists I attend to it. Not just to see it, but to watch it unfold. The mind wanders and the imagination is piqued. What will happen next? It holds my interest in a way that no suspended moment ever has, however glorious. The view is constantly changing, and as I pay attention, so do I.
Isn’t it odd, this human tendency to seek the perfect, unobstructed view? To hurry past stragglers, shoving our way to the front to witness the spectacle everyone else says is worth seeing? And then to snap a photo in order to “capture the moment” forever.
But we can’t capture moments. We live them and, if we’re lucky, we live through them. As tempting as it may be to stay and enjoy the view, that’s not how the world works. Day follows day and we move with it.
We are not props on the day’s stage, but actors in the current scene in the performance of our lives. Our Creator is directing the play. This is such good news. In spite of our predilection for still life and snapshots, they don’t tell our whole story. They can’t as long as our view keeps changing.
How grateful I am for those pines that stand tall and proud and “in the way.” Instead of spoiling my view, they’ve expanded it.