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Friday, January 27, 2012

The Joy of Writing


Each Friday we provide the link to the blog that is hosting a celebration of poetry around the blogosphere. At that site you can find the links to the many other blogs that are posting poems (new and old), discussions of poems, and reviews of poetry books.

Enjoy the festivities!

The host this week is the children’s writer and illustrator Jim Hill. You can visit him here at Hey, Jim Hill!


(Engraving from The British Sportsman, by Samuel Howitt,
1756-1822, English painter and engraver)

“It’s not accidental that film biographies of great scientists and artists are produced in droves. The more ambitious directors seek to reproduce convincingly the creative process that led to important scientific discoveries or the emergence of a masterpiece. And one can depict certain kinds of scientific labor with some success. Laboratories, sundry instruments, elaborate machinery brought to life: such scenes may hold the audience’s interest for a while. And those moments of uncertainty — will the experiment, conducted for the thousandth time with some tiny modification, finally yield the desired result? — can be quite dramatic.

“Films about painters can be spectacular, as they go about recreating every stage of a famous painting’s evolution, from the first penciled line to the final brush-stroke. Music swells in films about composers: the first bars of the melody that rings in the musician’s ears finally emerge as a mature work in symphonic form. Of course this is all quite naïve and doesn’t explain the strange mental state popularly known as inspiration, but at least there’s something to look at and listen to.

“But poets are the worst. Their work is hopelessly unphotogenic. Someone sits at a table or lies on a sofa while staring motionless at a wall or ceiling. Once in a while this person writes down seven lines only to cross out one of them fifteen minutes later, and then another hour passes, during which nothing happens. Who could stand to watch this kind of thing?”

~ Wislawa Szymborska, born 1923, Polish poet and translator, from her Nobel Lecture after receiving the Prize for Literature in 1996


THE JOY OF WRITING

Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
For a drink of written water from a spring
whose surface will xerox her soft muzzle?
Why does she lift her head; does she hear something?
Perched on four slim legs borrowed from the truth,
she pricks up her ears beneath my fingertips.
Silence — this word also rustles across the page
and parts the boughs
that have sprouted from the word “woods.”

Lying in wait, set to pounce on the blank page,
are letters up to no good,
clutches of clauses so subordinate
they’ll never let her get away.

Each drop of ink contains a fair supply
of hunters, equipped with squinting eyes behind their sights,
prepared to swarm the sloping pen at any moment,
surround the doe, and slowly aim their guns.

They forget that what’s here isn’t life.
Other laws, black on white, obtain.
The twinkling of an eye will take as long as I say,
and will, if I wish, divide into tiny eternities,
full of bullets stopped in mid-flight.
Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so.
Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall,
not a blade of grass will bend beneath that little hoof’s full stop.

Is there then a world
where I rule absolutely on fate?
A time I bind with chains of signs?
An existence become endless at my bidding?

The joy of writing.
The power of preserving.
Revenge of a mortal hand.

~ Wislawa Szymborska

8 comments:

Joyce Ray said...

Wow, Maria! Szymborska's poem leaves me with such a sense of power. It's easy to forget the mightiness of a writer's pen/keyboard when we're stuck or feel dried up.I love this part-

"Silence - this word also rustles across the page and parts the boughs
that have sprouted from the word "woods."

Today I shall picture images sprouting from my written words.

Linda at teacherdance said...

I enjoyed your lead into the poem, the envisioning of a poet's movie of lounging on a sofa, penning words at a table, the only action is in the brain and then a bit of finger movement. Who will watch? Love "Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so./
Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall" Nice to contemplate.

jama said...

What a beautiful post -- love all the elements: painting, quote, poem itself.

Powerful words. "The power of preserving." Wow. "Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so." Love it!

Tara said...

I, too, really appreciated the thoughtful way in which you wove together the different elements of this post - one flowing so naturally into the other. I loved these lines:
Lying in wait, set to pounce on the blank page,
are letters up to no good

- that's what writing is all about!

Myra Garces-Bacsal from GatheringBooks said...

Maria, what a beautiful choice for this week's Poetry friday. I can't help but gasp each time i read a verse - i agree with all the comments when they intimated on that RAW binding power that poets hold over universes crafted wilfully onto the page. Left me breathless with awe. Symborszka has always been a favorite of mine alongside Atwood and Adrienne Rich.

For some reason, i was also reminded of Cornelia Funke's Inkheart Trilogy as i was rereading the lines. The various worlds and creatures flowing out of the writer's pen.

Ed DeCaria said...

Thanks for sharing this, Maria. I enjoyed the poem itself -- particularly the interplay of the writer and the written -- and Szymborska's perspective in general.

Mary Lee said...

What a great meditation on the power of writing!

The only way to control the flow of time is to be a writer...Now THAT'S power!

"The twinkling of an eye will take as long as I say,
and will, if I wish, divide into tiny eternities,"

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Maria, I love love love this post, the way that Szymborska answers her(?) own observation that there's nothing to watch when a poet's at work, by writing a poem in which life bounds to life in improbable, exciting ways. Here is the movie, and here is a reminder of, as others have said, the power of the writer. Thanks!