Friday, October 16, 2009

Said, unsaid

Poetry is letting the word be heard, behind the word.

Oriental paintings have lots of blank space, sometimes more blank than painted. When it's painted well, our mind fills in the blanks, and we become, in a sense, part of the painting.

The same is true for writing, whether it's poetry or prose. What's not said is more important than what's said, because it invites our mind to the party as an active - instead of passive - participant.

This isn't easy. If you hear someone talking about just how hard writing is, they're talking about this. The search for precisely the right word - le mot juste, the word that leaves words behind it, that teases your mind towards those words rather than hitting you upside your left-brain - that's something that eludes most writers.

It eludes me, almost all the time. In almost 2000 posts, I've really only done it once. I don't think that's unusual. The Muse speaks regularly to a pitiful few writers - there's a reason that a Hemingway stands out from the crowd.

The Muse hangs out over at Brigid's place:
All along the wooded trail going home there are things we might miss seeing, because they have not been named. Small pools of darkness within a wandering stream, the gloss of light on leaves and the shape of shadows on the bark. The feel of the wind against my neck, a gentle reminder from up above that I will not be forgotten. A reminder that He who has no name, knows mine. The wind as cool breath on my neck reminding me that I am loved, that my name is on someones lips. For earth without form is void, but heaven without names is only blackness.
There's a lot of blank space in that paragraph, waiting for your mind to fill it with your own memories of people or dreams long gone, of hopes for where you might go. Your own mind whispers words behind her words.

I'm told that Envy is one of the Deadly Sins. Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.

The best music does this. When I read Brigid's post last night, it made me think of one of the few songs where I think the lyrics stand up as poetry, without the support of the music. Words that paint a canvas with blank vistas wide as the prairie. A song where if you listen closely, you'll hear the Muse singing behind the words your own mind adds to the song.

Verdi Cries (Songwriter: Natalie Merchant)
The man in 119 takes his tea all alone.
Mornings we all rise to wireless Verdi cries.
I'm hearing opera through the door.
The souls of men and women, impassioned all.
Their voices climb and fall; battle trumpets call.
I fill the bath and climb inside, singing.

He will not touch their pastry
but every day they bring him more.
Gold from the breakfast tray, I steal them all away
and then go and eat them on the shore.

I draw a jackal-headed woman in the sand,
sing of a lover's fate sealed by jealous hate
then wash my hand in the sea.
With just three days more I'd have just about learned the entire score to Aida.

Holidays must end as you know.
All is memory taken home with me:
the opera, the stolen tea, the sand drawing, the verging sea, all years ago.
Said, unsaid. If everyone could do it, you'd see a lot more of it.


Paladin said...

If everyone could do it, you'd see a lot more of it.

Perfectly put.

Anonymous said...

She is good, and I'm fortunate to have ready access to her work.