Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Poetry is Not a Luxury

I’ve been reading a lot of Audre Lorde lately. Her writings come up often in my courses, and my friends keep shoving wonderful books into my arms to read. She is fantastic.

Just going over a short essay she wrote back in 1977, and pondering . . .

The essay is called “Poetry is Not a Luxury.” Much of it can be summed up thusly (I love using the word “thusly.”)

“As we come more into touch with our own ancient, non-european consciousness of living as a situation to be experienced and interacted with, we learn more and more to cherish our feelings, and to respect those hidden sources of our power from where true knowledge and, therefore, lasting action comes . . . I believe that women carry within ourselves the possibility for fusion of these two approaches so necessary for survival, and we come closest to this combination in our poetry. I speak here of poetry as a revelatory distillation of experience . . . For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence . . . poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.”

My mom hates poetry. I struggle with poetry in the same way I struggle with the Bible – you often have to read it a million times over and really dig into the text to get what’s happening. Takes a lot of time to go over a short little piece, and I often feel I don’t have time to ponder a certain piece over and over and over again. My loss.

And isn’t that the point, really? Lorde points out the need to get in touch with our own ancient, culturally separated selves – to not be so obsessed with the physical and to focus on the spiritual. To cherish and experience and dance. It is within these careful, slow ponderings that we discover our power, our action, our very selves.

Poetry is not a luxury. But I treat it as such, as I often callously treat time with beloved family, friends. As I treat time alone or in meditation as luxuries and not necessities. Today I feel called to a deeper understanding of life – life which is thoughtful, careful, joyful and unhurried. Full of so many important things, truly important tasks and ponderings, that I need to bring myself to a place where, when I wake up in the morning, my schedule is empty enough to be able to fit them all in.

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