|The fog shifts to light ... Photo by Justin Kern, Flickr|
HOW TO BE A POET
(to remind myself)
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill — more of each
than you have — inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.
-- Wendell Berry, New Collected Poems (via brainpickings.org)
Some more thoughts on the power of silence:
- The orangutan's gaze: A call to interior solitude
- What happened when I stopped going to church
- Poem for a snowy day
Prayer #285: "Prayers Prayed Back"
God of the interior third place --
It could be the coffee shop, the bookstore, the pub ... or none of the above. I'm searching for my place, the spot where my mumbling, inchoate pleadings can echo back, as if I were standing in an empty and ancient cathedral laid bare by time, with only enough light to outline the pews where I should be sitting.
Insight (I am slowly understanding) does not come gilded or be-bowed. It does not spring forth fully formed. It does not even arrive large enough to see -- more an accumulation of specks pushing through the fibers in the curtain of silence around me, like peckish moths picking at an overripe snack. I sense I must draw the curtain tighter. Yet not too tight -- just enough to allow the lighted dust.
God of the unpretentious revelation, I will gather the breadcrumbs as You drop them. I will guard them. Arrange them. And when the time is right, I will serve them as a feast made holier by its quiet preparation.