We Come To Something Without Knowing Why
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When Mark Rothko was working on his murals for the Four Seasons restaurant, he said he wasn't making paintings, he was making a PLACE.
By the same token, art and literature is not necessarily something we "look at" or "read" it is something we inhabit.
The poetry of Theodore Roethke is a place I inhabit, rather than read. In his poem "Manifestation," he says: "Many arrivals make us live: the tree becoming / Green, a bird tipping the topmost bough, / A seed pushing itself beyond itself, / The mole making its way through darkest ground..."
He ends the poem by saying: "What does what it should do needs nothing more. / The body moves, though slowly, toward desire. / We come to something without knowing why."
Here, Roethke describes the mystery that is at the heart of life. I've rarely seen this mystery described any better. The desire Roethke's work fulfills for me is the desire to know this mystery and to feel how this mystery moves through me. What I want from life is to really "feel alive."
That statement has been vastly misquoted and misused, but he was describing an inner process, of self-knowledge, and one which eventually, manifests outwardly, in expression.
the woman in the cabin while snyder prepares a fire
the joyous hooker goading ginsberg to give up little boys
the lone man at lyn lifshin's reading
dying to get under some lesbains skin
the father of the man sheep dickey wrote of
lew welch's confidante, knowing he jumped
the librarian sweeping periods and apostrophes off the rug
below the deks where cummings sat
the fisherman who nettted hart crane out of the water
the cabbie waiting for the wife who burns the toast after reading marge piercy
the maytag man who comes to fix sylvia's oven
all of these come to something
It's very much like that for me. I literally hear voices and the ones that don't fade away after a short time are the ones that I eventually commit to paper. Sometimes these voices are so far removed from me and my experiences that I'm utterly astonished and have no idea where they originate. The stories dictate themselves and I'm merely a conduit to something out there in the ether. I realize that to laymen/women that may sound completely nuts but because I am addressing this to fellow writers/artists, I am confident I'll have lots of people reading this, nodding their heads and empathizing...
What works/authors do you enter into as entering a place? Like I said, I come to Roethke that way. Rilke. Richard Ford's stories. Stone's "Helping." McCarthy's The Road.
margad, I know exactly what you mean. Years ago I trained myself to remember my dreams because I sensed that so much was happening to me when I was asleep. Sometimes I feel as if I've actually gone to other places, earthly and not. When I was a teenager I remember waking with the knowledge that I had written a novel while asleep, but could remember none of the particulars (that's why I trained myself to remember my dreams). Every once in awhile a complete story will deliver itself in my sleep, still. I've done some study into dream interpretation/states of consciousness, and some hold that one's dream life is every bit as real as one's waking life. I think that I believe that too. I wish I didn't have to wake at a set time and that I didn't need sleep "enhancements" many nights because waking could be the most crucial moment of the day.
I ususally take a walk in the morning and keep a little book with me to write in, because clever thoughts and inspiration always seems to flow when I am in the middle of nowhere (or Starbucks, if my feet take me that far...). A writer once advised me to just let these bits alone until I am in front of the computer...if they are worthy, they will come back to me. I can't quite bring myself to trust this...I'd love to know if anyone has ever tried it?
(sorry if another version of this message pops up...I had to rewrite it as the LT sever is giving me the brush off this morning)
my best poems take 2 years: one long minute or minutes to write them, and a rotation of the seasons before that shirt or jacket or drawer comes 'round again. then a quick rewrite, repeat the process, second year, if it has any value, write it in her book.
the worst poems are the one's i've found years after professing my love, but only on those slips of paper. brings a kink in my throat every time.
you'd think i'd come up with a better plan . . .