In my poems I am trying to find my way through a thickened world that at times feels remote and inchoate and struck blank with unbalanced noise.
I would like to place myself in a cold field of deep attention, of ravens and bare trees. That is the place of my youth.
But, at the same time I find myself awake in the lush space of Florida, where home is now. Here, I find I can look back safely, to the concrete and grey of “Chicago-land,” the interior landscape that I can never walk out of.
Out of that attention, I come to feel and regard with a more acute understanding what it is I have passed through. The lines of my poems are filled with the imagery of absence as I work to write “the missing.”
I write to be less myself, to sense something more expansive than where I speak from, to empty myself so that I may wrote for the voiceless. This at least is my hope.
Our lives, for those of us who bother to (honestly) consider them, are mostly a constant evasion of ourselves. This allows for what I feel is a vital part of my writing: “The historical sense.”
The historical sense compels me to write not only of my own generation as it exists in my bones, but with a keening arisen from ancestors and all who speak from the literature of not only Europe, but from the commonality we all have and find within our folklore and religious writings and imagery.
This historical sense, to me, is a sense of the timelessness, and a sort of emptying out of one’s self in order to find space to allow the speaker to develop within the writer’s imagination.
Eliot wrote: “No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists.” To that, I add the relation we have to all the dead, not only our direct kinfolk, but those who are part of our greater family, the human family.
Through the art of the written word, I attempt to cross over, to enter into a world where isolation falls away and separateness is assuaged, and there is no need to seek a level of numbness to survive—and every silence is instructive, every perception part of a widening movement of voice and light, and air, so that it is possible to be fully aware, and feel the very shape of change.
Wallace Stevens stepped out onto the blue-gray beach he dreamed in his head. He found a way to walk there, in the presence of quieting patterns, despite the basic broken loneliness that stayed with him in his dreams.
Elizabeth Bishop fought off a great, shapeless, darkness by concentrating her attention on quartz grains, crumbs, and weathered wood; the subtle perceptual folds of experience that might be backed by a light unavailable even to her hyper-observant eyes. Her patience and discretion held her speakers up to the world.
And T.S. Eliot, despite his terror of other people, made his poems into expansive, ritual spaces, cathedrals of dusk and inwardness where he could feel grief among others and could stay, a little while, in their presence.
These poets thought in their poems.
They could not separate physical pain from its mental shape, or physical joy from the freedom of wandering far within an idea like an explorer of caves. In their poems they struggle to reassemble themselves, to locate those floating invisible powers that might hold them together, hold them to a real sense of place.
And they did this through language that is “unnatural,” far from ordinary speech and its hallmark directness, because they were wary of speech that simplifies our experience and corrodes our experience. These are the spells of human experience, these are the prayers of the faithful.
I don’t have the words yet. If I did, I would, as John Berger has written, “[defy] the space that separates.” I don’t have the words yet, but in my poetry they continue to search for me.