Words to Live By
I fell in love with poetry at 40.
In my new role as an emerging artist, I discovered poets and their (now) amazing, profound words and phrases. As my art started to develop, it included text, words, phrases, even a full poem, Forest Cathedral, written by William Cullen Bryant in 1824:
The groves were God’s first temples. Ere man learned
To hew the shaft, and lay the architrave,
And spread the roof above them – ere he framed
The lofty vault, to gather and roll back
The sound of anthems
All of a sudden poetry spoke volumes to my new heart, the real me that had finally been unearthed and was a seedling, growing. Peter McWilliams wrote:
Knowing & growing & showing & sewing & hoeing & glowing & flowing & bestowing
Love is two people rhyming
The words came to life, and I started seeking….Emily Dickinson’s work was the portal:
Bee! I’m expecting you!
Was saying Yesterday
To Somebody you know
That you were due—
The Frogs got Home last Week—
Are settled, and at work—
Birds, mostly back—
The Clover warm and thick—
You’ll get my Letter by
The seventeenth; Reply
Or better, be with me—
Emily Bronte’s line: Every leaf speaks bliss to me – melted my heart, and became my mantra as I traipsed round my garden finding leaves that were in themselves masterpieces of colour and texture.
And from the same poem I created a collage piece that a client gave to her lover, with Bronte’s phrase: lengthen the night and shorten the day.
I began to scour text books borrowed from an English Lit friend. Lines from the English Romantic writers: Coleridge-Taylor, Lord Byron, Keats and Wordsworth were incorporated into my work – such evocative phrases!
From Wordsworth’s “Ode to Autumn”: pass not, but sit and sing the lusty song
And his “Ode to Winter”: thy hand unclothes the earth
Not only into my work, but play, as well. I’ve used it to communicate to lovers and would-be lovers, to seduce, to flirt, to pull back the long skirt from my ankle and show a little “skin”. Finding lines, phrases and ideas that spoke so eloquently were a treasure to share, to offer. Like Rilke’s piece I sent to a suitor:
I am much too alone in this world, yet not alone enough
to truly consecrate the hour.
I am much too small in this world, yet not small enough
to be to you just object and thing,
dark and smart.
I want my free will and want it accompanying
the path which leads to action;
and want during times that beg questions,
where something is up,
to be among those in the know,
or else be alone
Shakespeare’s sonnet #18 recorded by Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day… made this piece so approachable for me…so lovely to listen to.
The Sufi poets: Rumi, Hafiz …profound, exotic….and Khalil Gibran’s’ The Prophet…(though not poetry per se, but I always think of his writing that way…)
David Whyte’s “The House of Belonging” is sublime, and his work “The Truelove” now breaks my heart, as this piece, shared at my wedding, is no longer “true” in my life.
Fiona Lam’s “Prelude” spoke volumes in its simplicity:
I carry everything
In my throat,
Behind a tender keyhole
Veiled by skin,
Where mind and heart and knowing
Join and clench
I’ll finish with one of my favorites: Mary Oliver’s West Wind #2:
You are young. So you know everything.
You leap into the boat and begin rowing.
But listen to me.
Without fanfare, without embarrassment, without any doubt,
I talk directly to your soul. Listen to me.
Lift the oars from the water, let your arms rest, and your heart, and heart’s little intelligence,
and listen to me. There is life without love.
It is not worth a bent penny, or a scuffed shoe.
It is not worth the body of a dead dog nine days unburied.
When you hear, a mile away and still out of sight,
the churn of the water as it begins to swirl and roil,
fretting around the sharp rocks–when you hear that unmistakable pounding—
when you feel the mist on your mouth and sense ahead the embattlement,
the long falls plunging and steaming—
then row, row for your life toward it.
Poetry is painting with words, heart sharing, soul stirring….
Poetry is an integral part of my art, my life.
And the artful way of life.
How do I count the ways?