The artist's job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.
- Gertrude Stein
Landscape And Soul
by Stephen Dunn
Though we should not speak about the soul,
that is, about things we don't know,
I'm sure mine sleeps the day long,
waiting to be jolted, even jilted awake,
preferably by joy, but sadness also comes
by surprise, and the soul sings its songs.
And because no one landscape compels me,
except the one that's always out of reach
(toward which, nightly, I go), I find myself
conjuring Breugel-like peasants cavorting
under a Magritte-like sky - a landscape
the soul, if fully awake, could love as its own.
But the soul is rumored to desire a room,
a chamber, really, in some far away outpost
of the heart. Landscape can be lonely and cold.
Be sweet to me, world.
- from the Cortland Review
I, too, am waiting for my soul to be jolted awake this summer. Trying not to succumb to despair. Wanting to get to work.
What has helped is that yesterday I finally wrote something. I'd been taking notes and jotting odd words down, stray images, in my notebook all summer towards an essay-poem, poem-essay. Disparate seeming things. Unconnected things. Finally, I felt awake enough to put them together, to make sense of it all in that way.
As always it's the work that keeps despair away.
A good long walk in the morning is a good restorative, too. Very often, I walk down this closed road, which leads to the small stand of trees.
All along the utility corridor path, these yellow weeds.
The field they mowed down a few weeks again is already coming back.
Here you can glimpse the buildings across the highway - the red strip is the Shopper's Drug Mart.
And then these beauties along the fence:
Lastly, walking home through the 'dry pond' in the middle of my neighbourhood.
And me asking all along, be sweet to me world, be sweet....and it is, you know, it is.