“For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.” -Audre Lorde, (1985)
I went to a poetry reading tonight based on this single quote from Audre Lorde. I knew the faculty at my school were talented and creative and supportive and highly educated individuals, but I was stunned by how some of the poems literally knocked me back in my chair or elicited an insuppressible “Fuck!” from my lips despite the hand I was using to prop up my mouth.
Words are such a playground. I revel in their juicy elasticity and yet, it often takes hearing someone else read their work aloud to be reminded of how powerful words are. Tonight was full of social commentary, observations of beauty, reminders of what it means to be queer, Latinx, Native American, disabled, immigrants, Jewish, American, lucky and unlucky. Words brought me to the precipice of desire and simultaneously nailed me to the wall. Words dusted off a part of me which had gone to sleep and roused me to action. Words balmed all over my brain and healed me in places I forgot to acknowledge. Primarily, words humbled me tonight.
Something we’ve been talking about in class lately—leaving “breath” in your artwork (Impressionism painting, Symbolist poetry, the space “between notes” in music) for the observer to develop their own relationship with the truth presented by the artist: that in the merging of the two realities, you must build a bridge to reach someone.
As an artistic person, I am constantly wrestling with egocentricity. (How can I write what I know and avoid being self-obsessed?) Sometimes, it can be so simple as taking a vulnerable breath before jumping into a song to allow the audience to breathe with you. Other times, it’s not so simple. And still other times, there’s a sacred magic in a particular song or poem or painting, that magic we are always striving to channel, which transcends anything else you are humanly able to do—that no matter of introduction or context or backstory will effect, and will stand the test of time (I cite Mozart, for one of many possible examples).
More likely, though, we will die in relative anonymity, known and remembered only by those we connected with and loved well. One of the readers tonight knocked my socks clean off with her work, and has only gotten one poem published in a magazine not known for its poetry.
Why, as a society, do we value the things we value? Why do we live in a world were Justin Bieber is given an enormous platform when there are incredibly talented (and kind, and nurturing, and humble, etc) humans among us? I guess it just goes back to the imperative that we must assume everyone we meet holds the divine, and could be a god in disguise…
I need to get up early and so will have to wrap this up. Hopefully tomorrow I will blog earlier in the day and have more content to share. Until then, read a poem, learn a word, make a list—however you interact with words, do it and enjoy it! We really are lucky to have the unimaginably powerful tool of language at our disposal. Sweet dreams, world.