Friday, January 8, 2010

Great Wisdom Other Side Reached

There are various translations of the  Sanskrit “mahaprajnaparamita”  and the one I prefer to consider now is “great-wisdom-other-side-reached”.  It may be wrong but I think we all journey toward the achievement of great wisdom and that, in a sense, it resides on another shore.  In my last post, We Each Become the Rebirth of Ancient Light, I referenced the source of art as the attempt to close the gap between ourselves and ourselves.  I believe the Sanskrit phrase refers to the same thing but with a difference.

Octavio Paz in The Bow and the Lyre discusses the Sanskrit phrase as implying that reaching the other shore does not necessarily mark the end of the journey and that as artists, poets, we visit the other shore via the process of making the art.  It is not about a permanent achievement or death.  We find the great wisdom on the other shore, we know it and although we cannot fully contain it within the boundaries of language, our art, phrases, poetry point to it and imply it efficiently enough to bring to others the knowledge that it is there and in them at the same time.

Without that outward connection, the pointing beyond, the certainty of great-wisdom-other-side-reached, the poem is hollow, a vacuum.  It may entertain, be filled with attractive craft, seem deep and complex but without the genuine and felt sense of great-wisdom-reached the poem is an exercise, practice.  The lightning strikes but rarely.

Despite being so, we must write the hollow, vacuous crap.  That is, we must practice the craft daily if we want to be ready and able to visit the other shore.  Herein is the value and cost of workshops:  On the one hand they teach some craft; on the other hand they imply that craft is enough when it is not (although it is necessary).  When not implying that craft is enough workshops, taken too seriously, tend to imply that the workshopped poems are better than they are, good even.  This is nice but not necessarily good.

So long for now.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

We Each Become the Rebirth of Ancient Light

“Man is never identical to himself.”  Octavio Paz in The Bow and the Lyre.  This is source of art, of poetry, which is in large part the attempt to identify the self, to unite with it, to close the gap between  being where we are and where we feel we want to be.  Having said that I can tell you what I really wanted to say:  that through poetry we  attempt to close the gap between what we are and what we are.

To close the gap is likely impossible since language  itself is an artifice—a damned good one but still artifice—in that the word “chair” represents a chair but isn’t a chair and is different  to each one of us although we all generally agree on what it is.  Nevertheless our natural tropism, our “ineluctable modality” of the invisible (a la Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce’s Ulysses), is to close this gap we find as a given in life.

If we pursue a path designed to close, heal really, this gap and, given that there is a limited number of human emotions and that language is artifice, why the hell do we try?  Billions of men and women have failed before us, even the great ones.  Why do we bother to cry out?  The reason is that we each cry uniquely; our poetic DNA is unique to each of us.  Language may be artifice but, despite our general agreement about what words mean, it is flexible enough to represent the expression of unique individuals uniquely. Language is the tool of individuation.

Practically speaking the route to  individual expression stamped with one’s own poetic DNA is to practice writing a lot.  A real lot.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  You must write and write and write.  Write poetry every day.

Once your unique voice emerges you’ve finally reached the beginning; and the road goes on forever for “man is never identical to himself”.  But what a road it is.