I felt to share some thoughts today.
Yesterday morning I was discussing with friends, Victor & Lea why it is we write. Since we’ve all been writing our entire lives & they have excellent taste in poetry, it was a great discussion. My friend, Victor made the astute distinction between the urge to write and the urge to communicate that writing to others. I confessed there’s catharsis & a sense of deep satisfaction in other people sharing their feelings with me, having my own feelings expressed, and of course (as Sondheim says) making something where there was previously nothing.
I also thought about how I occasionally write self-deprecating lines. Clueless why I feel the need to do that. Perhaps it’s a nuance of confession. Maybe. Could it be a sense of needing to be low at times? Or even more odd, perhaps it is a type of defense mechanism. Perhaps it’s a way of culling people from my life who wouldn’t simply accept me just as I am. That feels most truthful. Admittedly, there’s also an urge to better understand and properly respond to the dynamics around me. Whatever the case, writing is a healthful way to take inventory without going into too much self-absorption. On the other hand, writing can be a road into the interior, a road into full absorption. There is also a sense I have of continually being misunderstood and having to fight against the tendency I have to explaining myself in an effort for full transparency & mutual understanding. That inclination’s a tough one for me. I am to the point now of refusing to explain myself & my art. Yet, for the sake of this thread, I’ll carry on through this thought stream a bit further.
If I felt I had a choice in the matter (which I clearly do not) of being someone who has a strong urge to share myself through art or a person who doesn’t have such an urge, I’m exceedingly glad to be a person with a propensity to do the former. Because it is in part this propensity and the capacity to explore these inner and outer realms which allows me to feel fully alive. To feel full. To feel.
My friends & I came to the question of why we feel the need to share our art with others outside of our circle? We were thinking of various personality traits, ego, narcissism, & all the factors which might be involved. Might it even be genetic?
Sometimes I write about everyday things, but lately I’m trying to do something different. It is an odd technique I refer to as “Linguistic Collective Impressionism” where I use the words on each line to be digested & discerned themselves. Then one may stand back & allow one’s mind to connect it all. As in impressionism where one gets a glimpse of a larger picture. It may not be as precise as a portrait or landscape – its “goal” is not necessarily to do anything more than lightly touch on something, or hint or suggest a feeling. It’s simply meant to convey an impression – something palpable. And this has been very challenging and satisfying for me as a writer. Though I should add that in the world of Art itself, while I enjoy Impressionist paintings, I don’t prefer that particular movement to others. Which leads me to wonder if the Impressionists themselves could do portraiture, but carried on doing Impressionist work in order to challenge themselves in the same way. But that is another discussion for another day.
For me, the reasons we share go deeper. I actually delight in all subjects, especially literature, design, science, nature, history, symbolism, etc. – so much that I feel a very strong urge to do the extra work to place them in my poems to give one a sense of context, texture and depth. Sometimes even using Personification, referring to myself as the thing. Why do I feel a need to do that, in lieu of only stating the thing as itself? We discussed the possibility that it’s for escape, or purely ego &/or narcissism. For me, I can say I’m pretty certain it is none of those things. And in the moment of typing this, I can fully relate to Prufrock’s “That is not what I meant at all.”
I know this because I’m not escaping anything, but rather fully diving into it. An ego-driven person/a narcissist generally doesn’t care about the feelings of others, and this pervades all their behavior. Generally they’re not inclined to listen to others for the sake of sharing and relating to them. It is solely about what’s in it for them. Their goal is how can I get what I need, not how may I serve others, hear others, relate this idea to others, or share & delight in a cool flower or design with others. At least I can say without a doubt, while I do enjoy sharing with others, I absolutely love hearing of others’ process, work, stories, and thoughts just as much if not more than my own. While I totally understand how this urge to share could be perceived to be rooted in ego or narcissism, for me I feel that is just not the case. In fact, I couldn’t feel farther from the ego while I’m writing – it’s like I’m an observer, yet totally emotionally involved. To me the process is so difficult and laborious, or so joyous it feels like I’m participating in the divine.
So, if not ego, narcissism, or escape why is it we feel we must do this & go the extra step to share? After thinking about it today, I kept going back to context. I am from a big family – both parents constantly present, tons of friends & visitors always around. In order to be heard, you had to speak up. You had to assert yourself. In my family’s culture if you didn’t share or participate it was kind of considered rude. If someone didn’t eat my mother’s food, she would say half in jest, “You’re not eating, what’s the matter with you?” So in my family, not participating and not being transparent were actually considered suspicious and rude. My mother would also say, “Why doesn’t he talk? Still waters run deep.” Or “I don’t trust that guy; he doesn’t look me in the eyes.” And she was right. But in the context of our family, there could be five conversations going on in the room at once & we could follow them all. When you jumped in the conversation, you had to be fast & accurate, otherwise people would call you on it. But we were encouraged to participate and just expected to contribute and fully pay attention. Since the atmosphere continually called for full participation and transparency, these memories got me thinking about whether or not the urge to share poetry could be solely a function of a learned behavior. And if it also may have something to do with desiring, or I’d have to say it’s closer to “needing” to be heard. Though instinctively I believe while those things may be true, the answer is something deeper, more “primal” than that.
Since both my parents were teachers, we were taught to notice everything. So I’d have to say the reason I enjoy bringing the flora, fauna and symbols into my writing has, in greater depth, to do with a type of lifestyle. When placing myself into the poem as a piece of architecture for example I’m saying, “Hey, notice this! Look at the workmanship of this! Somebody spent a lot of time and learned this beautiful trade so we could appreciate this door, this bowl, this stained glass window, this staircase. Not so we would look down or walk past without seeing it.” In this way it is totally obtrusive. It’s about fully immersing the reader into the present moment – similar to screenwriting. I’m also creating what I want to see. Sometimes I want to create an elaborate setting with intricate complexities. Sometimes the feeling I want to see calls for gorgeous, sweeping vistas. Sometimes I’m looking for a simple shot of a solitary chair. I enjoy the passion of Van Gough, the quietness of Vermeer, the grandeur of directors like Mallick, Redford, & Spielberg, the intimacy and subtly of Efron & James Brooks, & the incandescence of Merchant Ivory – And am pretty fascinated by most foreign films. So I guess what I’m saying is you never know what you’re gonna get in any of my work, because my tastes are all over the map. But it’s ultimately up to the writer or artist to decide what their work needs. Being true to ourselves and our vision, we simply cannot serve our critics who believe their tastes are universal principles. But at the same time it is crucial to retain a teachable spirit and listen to & apply the wisdom of others – assimilating into our work anything of value as we see fit.
If I place myself as a flower, it’s almost as if I’m picking a wild Iris and showing it to people saying: “Don’t just walk or hike past everything looking at the trail & where you will place your next step. Look at all the miracles around you. Look at me! I’m an iris! Right now I’m unfurling! You won’t see anything like me again for another year – and only after I’ve been buried & have gone through a hellish winter. Be present with me now while I am with you.” These are the feelings I have a deep urge to communicate. Even though I’m often criticized and even mocked for doing so. I will not change my style to suit the dictates of others, because right now it’s the most effective way for me to write. Especially when people tell me they will never look at a flower the same way again. Such comments encourage me. For some reason, when you personify something, it takes on a unique “personality” of its own that wouldn’t otherwise be associated with it. It’s my way of celebrating everything.
Ironically, even though it may appear as though I’m putting myself in the center of the subject by using such techniques as personification, it is completely different than how it appears. To really understand something, it’s crucial that we place ourselves in the center of it – being fully empathic or “one with it”. This is where it gets “primal.” But in order to comprehend it, one must first rid themselves of all their preconceived ideas of writer & subject, and if possible, the illusions of themselves. One might place as the superordinate goal, above all else, the concept: Let nothing divide us. In so doing, one is better able to discern the intention of the artist. After doing so, they may accurately see that by my placing myself within the subject in this way, I am actually being immersed and absorbed into it so fully that I disappear into it. In this way it is the exact opposite of what was previously assumed – given the preconceived ideas of the intention of the artist being ego-driven; which is kind of actually laughable. Of course this process also requires the assumption that a person will/can disassociate themselves from the idea of my being the writer & view only the flower or object – not as me, but as itself – with a voice all its own – as though it is speaking to them. This is my hope anyway.
Anyone who has ever hiked would understand this process. As it stems from the little presents in the tiny pink, blue, violet and white wildflowers one finds along the path – and how that feels like a sweet reward to one’s soul. It’s an attempt at preservation, similar to pressing flowers, but not dried and crumbled between the pages of some shelved book. Rather, it is the contrary – fully alive and saying: “this little flower’s life is here, right now and it’s present everywhere we are.” It is my way of having a sacred reverence for everything.
There is still so much to say.