Why Poetry?

A poem, for me, usually begins when a word or phrase comes to mind as I’m waking up in the morning.

Darlene Witte

Before long a strong emotion trails behind, a shadow following the words. The emotion and words demand my attention. They are inseparable. They tug from within, wanting to form a life of their own. For the next few hours I find myself engaged in a kind of vibrant, difficult, transitional space between worlds. Over days, months and even years afterward the struggle for an evocative union of emotion and word continues.

Words arise out of my love, anger, hope, despair and loss. They express longings that are innate to my own humanity. They force their way up from the root of my being into my throat to reveal themselves. As they rise, the struggle between feeling and form opens a deep well of renewal. I am encouraged in this process when I re-visit the thoughts of William Wordsworth, the Victorian poet who reflected that emotion is the essence of poetry.

If I’m writing of loss I rest myself in the raw injury as my body knows it and face it fully. Courage provides me with the nascent energy, the womb, the inner space needed to manifest the next step of my pathway. One day at a time, one moment at a time. That’s all. That’s enough. That aporia, that open space is where an amniotic fluid begins to flow: I take another breath, make a cup of tea, or walk. I move forward more open to what might come next.

Exploring an experience of joy or spiritual ecstasy is a similar process.

A sensory appreciation captures my attention when I come across a rose bud about to open in the morning sunshine, or taste a fresh pungent green bean in the garden. I focus there, on the color, the fragrance or the taste. I let myself appreciate that small thing as an adventure of sorts and set that burst of joy beside a memory of loss and move between them. Healing begins with reaching out for something more.

I survive ineffable grief by visiting its deepest opposites, joy and gratitude with all the integrity I can find. As I engage, I am more able to return to my own pathway. I become just a little more whole than I was. The process of writing poetry helps me to orient my body-mind as I walk blindfolded along the tightrope of being alive. I drop words into the mystery of what I feel in order to catch what is floating just out of sight, what is hidden just beyond my reach. I’m like a fisherman hanging hooks down into the water, jigging to capture nuance. Deciphering the ephemeral clues hidden in the raw storms that arise during everyday living allows my soul to re-examine, re-experience, and reach for more complete understanding. I hold to the ideal that I must tell my own truth clearly. If I can face into the difficulty of my own best potential then readers may in some way find the will to continue to inch their own way forward into the hidden magic of inner transformation and growth.

Each time I write I hope to create in myself a pathway of words, a Camino, a sacred trail through the remote reaches of my own human journey. I believe that we each hold within a sacred well where renewal waits. When we draw up fresh water, fresh words, fresh awareness comes, one sip at a time. I don’t set out to express an essence that is pure enough that another person can sense its presence. I hope that pausing to breathe in the fragrance of refined awareness will help others to hear their own inner call toward a next sunrise, a next step, and to deeply embrace their own experience of living another moment. And that’s all we need: Just. One. Moment. At. A. Time.

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