This just resonated with me.
People through the ages have attempted to avoid life’s underlying tragedy by creating or experiencing great art or beauty.
Others use their art to confront it head on.
Don DeLillo wrote a “daring, profoundly compassionate story about life, death, art and human connection” in which young wife Lia speaks of a trip to India with an ageing artist, now close to death. “He wanted to see the caves … The cave temples of Ajanta, unforgettable — sculptured, painted caves … and we saw a field of amaranthus, and he told me the common name. Love-lies-bleeding. Slender red flowers. Spiky flowers.”
The adult son, asks, “Who was the poet who thought of that name?”
Poetry bolsters the interior realm. Wallace Stevens said the expression of poetry helps us to live our lives.
It also helps us face our deaths.
For instance, Basho’s death poem: On a journey, ill:/my dream goes wandering/over withered fields.
In the 21st century West we are closeted from real — as opposed to gruesome, stylised, Hollywood — death. Monks, chaplains and poets prise open the door.
Patti Smith has recorded The Coral Sea, a spiritual journey, honouring the life and death of the photographer of flowers Robert Mapplethorpe: In his heartlessness he had ignored nature, and how heartless nature was in return.
Poetry can lift us beyond mere existence … and bring us back to reality. A certain traveller, who believed in nothing, found himself one summer in a foreign city … checking warily to make sure he still had his return ticket to the ordinary places where we live. (Adam Zagajewski).
But what compensation does poetry offer in the end? Meaning, it will feed you, it will ravish you, it will not keep you alive. (Louise Gluck)
Everything hurts. And the poet remains manacled to his helpless self. (Charles Bukowski)
Owe Wikstrom asks, what will suffice when the cold wind blows, the fundamental thought that existence is transitory?
Happiness or the joy of life must be celebrated, but wonderful things never last, not even the beauty of culture, of nature, of poetry.
Seneca, considering the brevity of life, reprimanded those who forget death’s inevitability and only begin to live their lives as they are reaching the end.
Welsh poet R. S. Thomas, in a similar vein, wrote of people laughing from a speeding vehicle at a man who is still but going in a better direction: Consumers of distance at vast cost, what do they know of the green twig with which he divines, where life balances excess of death, the bottomless water that is the soul’s glass?
— Stephen Webb
Thought I’d share it.