Monday, September 7, 2015
The Greeks believed there existed a "spirit" of poetry. This spirit would sometimes visit a human and deliver what was needed to compose a work of art, a thing of truth and insight, a thing, as my friend Tom says, of beauty.
This spirit did not care a whit for social class, wealth, achievement, power, or pride. In fact, too much ego or pride would send the muse packing. It sometimes visited the humblest of places and people, but did not easily find its way to the page.
Drudgery, lack of education or literacy, want of materials or physical restraint all kept the words from record. The genius was there, but the images, ideas, and language languished.
The spirit moved on.
When the poetry of the outsiders did make it to a song or a memory or a tradition, it did not meet with much welcome by the powers that be. Stories that exposed greed, exploitation, grotesque sides of humanity fell on the point of a spear.
But the poets persevered, often in obscurity. Women, like Hildegard of Bingen, Sapphos, Antigone and more contemporary writers like Jack London and Theodore Dreiser all looked to the realities of social hypocrisy rather than deliver genial, titillating little bon-bons and back slapping for the elites.
And so it goes still. The muses come with me to the prison, not because of me, of course, but because there are hearts waiting and opening with the prospect of telling a truth well. There exists, sometimes, a quantum shift of energy change when the efforts blend, merge, and weave into a synergy of communion and connection with something much bigger than the individuals in the circle.
Often, when a new man comes in, it takes a while for the respect of words to gel enough for synergy to generate. The other men are patient and lend their wisdom. That either works or it doesn't, depending on the willingness of the new guy.
When I despair that the work I have done in obscurity has come to nothing in the way of publication or promotion, I think of the ocean, of the mountain. They are made up of small drops and stones. There are forces at work that add up to the impression of eternity and infinity. The small, necessary component pieces become more than the sum of their parts.
It is like that with any creative work done for the sake of itself, but that might feel wasted or isolated.
As long as it is done with care, the work reaches out, its tendrils eager to grasp onto the work of others. The creative contributions, in increments, organize into a critical mass of desire.
It then wanders the corridors of the mean places and knocks quietly on doors, inviting to dance the words that might chip away at the fearful dream that we are alone.