Thursday, July 31, 2014

stored magic

These Songs are not meant to be understood, 
you understand,
They are only meant to terrify & comfort.

- John Berryman, from The Dream Songs

Reading through the beginning of Edward Hirsch's How to Read a Poem on the Poetry Foundation site this morning, drawn to the section, titled "Stored Magic."

He quotes Robert Graves:

True poetic practice implies a mind so miraculously attuned and illuminated that it can form words, by a chain of more-than-coincidences, into a living entity—a poem that goes about on its own (for centuries after the author’s death, perhaps) affecting readers with its stored magic.

Ages ago I bought a used book online from a secondhand bookshop. When it arrived, I could hardly stand the smell of it. I could only read it for small intervals. I put it on the furthest shelf from my reading chair in my study. I took it off the shelf and put it in the garage for a few weeks to air out. It seemed a strange sign that this book I felt I so needed to read, did not want me reading it. However, I persisted. And over the years the book has lost most of its strange musty scent and now just smells like an ordinary old, used book. Of course, it is also magic. 

The book, Marina Tsvetaeva: A Captive Spirit: Selected Prose.

In it she says, 

"There are magical words, magical apart from their meanings, physically magical, with a magic inherent in the sound itself, words that before they deliver a message already have a meaning, words that are signs and meanings unto themselves, that do not require compensation, but only hearing, words of the animal's, the child's dream language.
 It is possible that each person in his own life has his own magic words. 
In my life the magic word was and remained - the Pathfinder."

She finds her magic word in Captain's Daughter by Pushkin.  

She goes on:

"I had waited on the Pathfinder my whole life long, my whole huge seven-year-old life. 
It was the thing that waits for us at every turn of the road and of the corridor, that comes out from behind every clump of the forest and every corner of the street: the miracle into which the child and the poet walk without thinking as if walking home, that one and only walk homeward that we have, for which we give up - all our family homes."

“You know quite well, deep within you, that there is only a single magic, a single power, a single salvation...and that is called loving. Well, then, love your suffering. Do not resist it, do not flee from it. It is your aversion that hurts, nothing else.”

- Hermann Hesse

And so in spite of everything, we're drawn on, as readers and writers, by the magic word, by the stored magic in a poem, perhaps. I wanted to remind myself of that this morning.

It's cool this morning, after so many days of heat. Still, the day will warm up.

A day to drink iced tea. Iced matcha in this case.

For fun and loveliness, I'll be taking out daughter to the dental surgeon this afternoon to have her wisdom teeth extracted. Which was a bit of a surprise to me in the first place, but good to have done. (And she needs it done because of the angle they're coming in). 2600 dollars later. (Not including the 500 dollar regular dental appointment which led to the discovery of the wisdom teeth). By now this summer, we're just laughing about the bills piling up. What else to do?

The good news is that there will be plenty of ice cream in the house for the weekend.


  1. beautiful post.....

    and best of luck to your daughter... our 16 year old grand daughter just had hers removed.

    hugs to all...


  2. I just recently discovered your blog, but have quickly come to joyfully anticipate your posts each day. Your selections and your own words really do have a calming effect.

    Good luck to your daughter. I had mine out at 16 and my daughter, 17, will soon have to cross that bridge.

  3. With thanks to you both! Will keep you posted :)


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