by Adam Zagajewski
We know we’re not allowed to use your name.
We know you’re inexpressible,
anemic, frail, and suspect
for mysterious offenses as a child.
We know that you are not allowed to live now
in music or in trees at sunset.
We know—or at least we have been told—
that you do not exist at all, anywhere.
And yet we still keep hearing your weary voice
—in an echo, a complaint, in the letters we receive
from Antigone in the Greek desert.
“Don’t we use the word poetry in two ways? One: as a part of literature. Two: as a tiny part of the world, both human and pre-human, the part of beauty. So poetry as literature, as language, discovers within the world a layer that has existed unobserved in reality, and by doing so changes something in our life, expands somewhat the space of what we are. So yes, it has the power to restore the mutilated world, even if no statistics ever show it.”
- Adam Zagajewski
"The spirit of the person is the oblique side of the person. It is not accessible to the direct grasp. Put another way, the soul is a shy presence in the life."
"It is ontologically and spiritually true that each person is privileged and burdened with the gift of uniqueness. there is no escape from this. No one else sees your life in the way that you do. No one else feels your life in the way that you do. Neither can any other stand on the same ground as you, destiny has decreed this. You are the unique inhabitant of your own reality and of your own life."
"One of the loveliest words in the English language is the word 'inspiration.' It signifies the creative breath. It also has to do with spontaneity, with the arrival of the unexpected image or idea in the mind. Inspiration is the flash of connecting light that suddenly comes from elsewhere and illuminates."
- from Four Elements, by John O'Donohue
This morning, thinking about the soul, about inspiration, about the word poetry.
As I was editing the proofs of Asking, it became apparent that 'soul' is a word I'm not afraid of using. When you take creative writing classes, someone will always point out certain words, and say that 'you can't get away with using that these days.' Of course, soul is one of those words. And of course, I'm the contrary type. But I did take care to make sure the word was not overused, which diminishes its power.
Also, in my forthcoming novel, titled I.s. (which are the initials of the main character, Ingrid-Simone), one of the interests of this character is the philosophy of the soul, existence.
What I like about the Zagajewski poem is the way he writes about what he's 'not allowed' to write about. There is always a way.
And I like what he says about poetry - that it "discovers within the world a layer that has existed unobserved in reality."
Thinking about this alongside the notion of the 'creative breath' and the shy soul, the ungraspable spirit. The oblique side of things.
Flashes of connecting light.