Thursday, March 21, 2013
Note: Yesterday I posted a poem on this same topic. Here is a prose reflection on the same theme, for it is a subject I have often thought about:
On Precise Imagery vs. General Observations
I think it was Ezra Pound who began it (imagistic poetry). He described something as being like “petals on a wet black bough”. Certainly this phrase evokes a definite sense of place and texture. It is clear, precise—sharp even.
Pound’s approach caught on and since that time poetry has more or less been dominated by the need to express things in sensuous and sharp imagery, all serving the purpose of evoking a specific object or texture or place or event or setting.
And all of this is to the good—it was indeed time to get away from the diffuse, sometimes amorphous writings of centuries past, to evoke an experience that could in effect be sensed, felt, tasted, seen by the reader.
But—as fascinating as this approach is and as effective as it can be in the hands of an adept writer—somehow it is not for me. Marge Piercy admonishes the would be poet to get out and learn the names of flowers, plants, birds, the textures of such objects as the bark of trees or the sand of a particular shore.
I learned few or none of these. Like Rumi, I was drawn to the essence, the distillation, the gist of things. I wanted to touch the inner not the outer realms. I focused not on external objects and events, but that which occurs in the deep recesses of what used to be called the spirit or soul (and I never did resolve my confusion about these two terms—still not sure which is which, though some claim there is a clear distinction.)
What I wrote about was not seen nor heard in the outer world. It involved sensation, awareness, intuitions that are difficult if not impossible to convey, since each is unique to the subject, the experiencer. That is to say, each of us meets the transcendent in a different way. a mode peculiar to ourselves and, ultimately, one not to be shared or even made fathomable to another.
Yet, there is commonality. We somehow recognize the source as peculiar to ourselves yet shared with others. We know that somehow, even in the midst of the general, there is a bond, a connection, one to another, and we are grateful to that poet who dares to bring us to this state of being, this level of consciousness, that the “outer world” of things and events is oblivious to. We are given the key to the invisible realms, knowledge of the (to most) unsuspected regions of the psyche, connection with what many call the ultimate divine, that which is sensed and cannot be accurately named.