It is by their syllables that words juxtapose in beauty, by these particles of sound as clearly as by the sense of the words which they compose. In any given instance, because there is a choice of words, the choice, if a man is in there, will be, spontaneously, the obedience of his ear to the syllables. The fineness, and the practice, lie here, at the minimum and source of speech. O western wynd, when wilt thou blow And the small rain down shall rain O Christ that my love were in my arms And I in my bed again.
It would do no harm, as an act of correction to both prose and verse as now written, if both rime and meter, and, in the quantity words, both sense and sound, were less in the forefront of the mind than the syllable, if the syllable, that fine creature, were more allowed to lead the harmony on. With this warning, to those who would try: to step back here to this place of the elements and minims of language, is to engage speech where it is least careless—and least logical. Listening for the syllables must be so constant and so scrupulous, the exaction must be so complete, that the assurance of the ear is purchased at the highest—40 hours a day—price.
For from the root out, from all over the place, the syllable comes, the figures of, the dance:. But the syllable is only the first child of the incest of verse always, that Egyptian thing, it produces twins! The other child is the LINE.
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And the joker? I am dogmatic, that the head shows in the syllable. The dance of the intellect is there, among them, prose or verse. Consider the best minds you know in this here business: where does the head show, is it not, precise, here, in the swift currents of the syllable? It is true, what the master says he picked up from Confusion: all the thots men are capable of can be entered on the back of a postage stamp. So, is it not the PLAY of a mind we are after, is not that that shows whether a mind is there at all? And the threshing floor for the dance? Is it anything but the LINE?
And when the line has, is, a deadness, is it not a heart which has gone lazy, is it not, suddenly, slow things, similes, say, adjectives, or such, that we are bored by? For there is a whole flock of rhetorical devices which have now to be brought under a new bead, now that we sight within the line. Simile is only one bird who comes down, too easily. The descriptive functions generally have to be watched, every second, in projective verse, because of their easiness, and thus their drain on the energy which composition by field allows into a poem.
Observation of any kind is, like argument in prose, properly previous to the act of the poem, and, if allowed in, must be so juxtaposed, apposed, set in, that it does not, for an instant, sap the going energy of the content toward its form. It comes to this, this whole aspect of the newer problems. We now enter, actually, the large area of the whole poem, into the FIELD, if you like, where all the syllables and all the lines must be managed in their relations to each other.
It is a matter, finally of OBJECTS, what they are, what they are inside a poem, how they got there, and, once there, how they are to be used. This is something I want to get to in another way in Part II, but, for the moment, let me indicate this, that every element in an open poem the syllable, the line, as well as the image, the sound, the sense must be taken up as participants in the kinetic of the poem just as solidly as we are accustomed to take what we call the objects of reality; and that these elements are to be seen as creating the tensions of a poem just as totally as do those other objects create what we know as the world.
The objects which occur at every given moment of composition of recognition, we can call it are, can be, must be treated exactly as they do occur therein and not by any ideas or preconceptions from outside the poem, must be handled as a series of objects in field in such a way that a series of tensions which they also are are made to hold , and to hold exactly inside the content and the context of the poem which has forced itself, through the poet and them, into being.
Which brings us up, immediately, bang, against tenses, in fact against syntax, in fact against grammar generally, that is, as we have inherited it. Do not tenses, must they not also be kicked around anew, in order that time, that other governing absolute may be kept, as must the space-tensions of a poem, immediate, contemporary to the acting-on-you of the poem?
I would argue that here, too, the LAW OF THE LINE, which projective verse creates, must be hewn to, obeyed, and that the conventions which logic has forced on syntax must be broken open as quietly as must the too set feet of the old line. But an analysis of how far a new poet can stretch the very conventions on which communication by language rests, is too big for these notes, which are meant, I hope it is obvious, merely to get things started.
Let me just throw in this. It is my impression that all parts of speech suddenly, in composition by field, are fresh for both sound and percussive use, spring up like unknown, unnamed vegetables in the patch, when you work it, come spring. Now take Hart Crane. What strikes me in him is the singleness of the push to the nominative, his push along that one arc of freshness, the attempt to get back to word as handle. If logos is word as thought, what is word as noun, as, pass me that, as Newman Shea used to ask, at the galley table, put a jib on the blood, will ya.
But there is a loss in Crane of what Fenollosa is so right about, in syntax, the sentence as first act of nature, as lightning, as passage of force from subject to object, quick, in this case, from Hart to me, in every case, from me to you, the VERB, between two nouns. Does not Hart miss the advantages, by such an isolated push, miss the point of the whole front of syllable, line, field, and what happened to all language, and the poem, as a result?
I return you now to London, to beginnings, to the syllable, for the pleasures of it, to intermit;. If music be the food of love, play on, give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die. That strain again. It had a dying fall, o, it came over my ear like the sweet sound that breathes upon a bank of violets, stealing and giving odour. What we have suffered from, is manuscript, press, the removal of verse from its producer and its reproducer, the voice, a removal by one, by two removes from its place of origin and its destination.
For the breath has a double meaning which latin had not yet lost. The irony is, from the machine has come one gain not yet sufficiently observed or used, but which leads directly on toward projective verse and its consequences. It is the advantage of the typewriter that, due to its rigidity and its space precisions, it can, for a poet, indicate exactly the breath, the pauses, the suspensions even of syllables, the juxtapositions even of parts of phrases, which he intends. For the first time the poet has the stave and the bar a musician has had. For the first time he can, without the convention of rime and meter, record the listening he has done to his own speech and by that one act indicate how he would want any reader, silently or otherwise, to voice his work.
It is time we picked the fruits of the experiments of Cummings, Pound, Williams, each of whom has, after his way, already used the machine as a scoring to his composing, as a script to its vocalization. It is now only a matter of the recognition of the conventions of composition by field for us to bring into being an open verse as formal as the closed, with all its traditional advantages. If a contemporary poet leaves a space as long as the phrase before it, he means that space to be held, by the breath, an equal length of time.
If he wishes a pause so light it hardly separates the words, yet does not want a comma—which is an interruption of the meaning rather than the sounding of the line—follow him when he uses a symbol the typewriter has ready to hand:. Each of these lines is a progressing of both the meaning and the breathing forward, and then a backing up, without a progress or any kind of movement outside the unit of time local to the idea.
There is more to be said in order that is convention be recognized, especially in order that the revolution out of which it came may be so forwarded that work will get published to offset the reaction now afoot to return verse to inherited forms of cadence and rime. Already they are composing as though verse was to have the reading its writing involved, as though not the eye but the ear was to be its measurer, as though the intervals of its composition could be so carefully put down as to be precisely the intervals of its registration. Which gets us to what I promised, the degree to which the projective involves a stance toward reality outside a poem as well as a new stance towards the reality of a poem itself.
From the moment the projective purpose of the act of verse is recognized, the content does—it will—change. If the beginning and the end is breath, voice in its largest sense, then the material of verse shifts. It has to. It starts with the composer. I myself would pose the difference by a physical image.
It has excellently done itself to death, even though we are all caught in its dying. For a man is himself an object, whatever he may take to be his advantages, the more likely to recognize himself as such the greater his advantages, particularly at that moment that he achieves an humilitas sufficient to make him of use. It comes to this: the use of a man, by himself and thus by others, lies in how he conceives his relation to nature, that force to which he owes his somewhat small existence.
If he sprawl, he shall find little to sing but himself, and shall sing, nature has such paradoxical ways, by way of artificial forms outside himself. But if he stays inside himself, if he is contained within his nature as he is participant in the larger force, he will be able to listen, and his hearing through himself will give him secrets objects share.
And by an inverse law his shapes will make their own way. This is not easy. Nature works from reverence, even in her destruction species go down with a crash. Sound is a dimension he has extended. Language is one of his proudest acts. I can't; can't, can't cantaloupe, can't canticle, can't cantilever, Cantina, cantata, cantankerous, cannon, Canape, canard, candelabra, can… can…, Can I? Can I just do it? Can I do it all? Can I ration my time to allow for my priorities? Can I ask others to share the burdens? Can I refuse this role of superwoman?
I can just say no. And I will! Did you experience the change that Carlene went through? Poetry therapy is not only used with individuals. It is frequently used in groups. Shahin Sakhi, a psychiatrist who attended a poetry therapy seminar, told me he had never previously written a poem or any other type of expressive writing. The first words he wrote were 19 :. I am tired. I have died so many times in so many ways. I am tired of dying, dying again and again….
It was the first time he had shared this experience. Finding the words to express it was a deeply healing experience for Shahin, and his relief was palpable. If the group's focus is on a particular theme, for example, cancer, I might use poems that relate directly to the illness. Eileen has breast cancer. The lump was removed last year.
It was chemotherapy and radiation for the next six months. Eileen lost weight. Her skin burned. She vomited every day. Her hair fell out— First wisps, then tufts, then clumps. Her daughter couldn't stand it— She was only thirteen— Seeing her mother pull out her hair. Help me. Take a pull. So she grabbed another and another then a clump and out it came. Then they put on music and danced and grabbed hair.
They played Chaplin and burlesque. Hitler had a funny moustache. They put sideburns on Jews. Eileen became a billy-goat. They bayed at the moon. When Eileen became bald, they laughed, then they wept. Then the daughter pasted patches in her armpits and a tuft between her legs. I'm a woman now! Up and down the women jumped and screamed until they were exhausted and Eileen's scalp turned red. Then they laughed and hugged and went to bed. Could you see the images and feel the experience of witnessing the transformation?
I want to be the stone and tell how she held me in the palm of her hand rolled me between her fingers slipped me into her mouth tasted my salt tumbled me around. The poems need not be about illness specifically, but might otherwise embody themes that confronts the patients. Twelve years ago, I myself was going through personally difficult times. One of my patients, a 32 year-old woman who was a wife and mother of a 2-year old daughter, died. At the same time my father was beginning his terminal decline from diabetic multisystem failure, and a friend of mine was dying from a cancer that had metastasized to her brain.
In addition, I had recently had reconstructive knee surgery to repair torn ligaments, following which I was disabled for months. I had never written much before except a few poems in earlier times of crisis. I developed ways of writing as my own healing practice, and I listened to the voices of other poets and writers doing the same Our voices are saturated with who we are, embodied in the rhythms, tonal variations, associations, images and other somato-sensory metaphors in addition to the content meaning of the words.
Our voices are embodiments of ourselves, whether written or spoken. It is in times of extremity that we long to find words or hear another human voice letting us know we are not alone. They represent a progression of my experience: from a dreamed awareness of my father's death as he began his terminal decline, through the realization of what the three year process had meant to me, to overwhelming grief in the aftermath of losing both my father and my friend, and, finally, an attempt to come to some resolution.
I rose in his wake. A dream crossed my eyes— My father lying still in his tub. I throw my arms around him yelling Daddy, wake up! Bubbles are bursting everywhere. We sit on the bench in the hospital corridor next to the cafeteria, and we wait. You know what waiting is.
If you know anything, you know what waiting is. It's not about you.
An Exquisite Collection of Mindfulness Poetry - Melli O'Brien
This is about illness and hospitals and life and death. This is about the smell of the disinfectant that hits you in the head. In the bathroom you look in the mirror. What do you see? Your father's sad face? Your mother's eyes? You catch the water cupped in your thickened hands, splash it on your face, and hope against hope you can wash it away— the aging brown spots, the bags, the swelling truth of waiting— So you go back to that bench.
Maybe your mother is there or your wife who is waiting for your father who is waiting for the news from the surgeon or the morphine for the pain or the nurse who cleans bedpans who is waiting for her shift to change while another man's hand clamps white as a claw to a clutch of bed sheets, and you wait. So you hear the news, and you take the long trip back from LA or Detroit— wherever you're from— and you see the faces of the drivers as they approach you out of the fog, and you see this one: a woman hunched over the wheel like your mother, and you think, It is my mother.
Then, out of the corner of your eye, you see your father's face in the driver's seat of a '49 powder blue Pontiac sedan. The thin sliver of his moonlit profile's smiling, but the nose is too long and it's not really him, and besides he'd never understand anyway— this impatience, this anger, this rage, this love, this fog on the windshield, this never even knowing if it's inside or out— because his whole life was waiting, and what does a fish know of the water or a bird of the air?
So you push the leaden accelerator down and act like you're headed to some small emergency, and you don't give a damn about the cop waiting behind the billboard or death over your left shoulder, and you think you might want to pray, and you do pray, but you don't know what for, and, anyway, you're driving, so you go back to the endless lines of headlights and traffic and exit signs until you get home to see the light flash on your answering machine, but you don't pick it up.
Instead, you go to the bathroom, take a shower, take a piss, pull out a carton of leftover food—anything— but you can't swallow it. So you push the button, and it's your sister's voice, but it's choked, and she can't speak. That's how I learned that the waiting was over, that my life changed forever, that this end was a beginning, but I didn't know for what.
I used to think it was death I was waiting for, but that's not what this is. This is life. So you show up and do the work and love who you love, and you learn to wait, and if you're lucky, you learn what waiting is and what you have to give. I dig the earth with my hands, claw stones with my nails, sift ash through my fingers— bone and tooth fragments burned out by morning spread on the ground. The rain washes down the smoldering mass below. Our human flesh the caustic ash now together turn to soap. When I was asked by the minister of a local congregation if I would read my poetry on illness, death and dying as part of their Sunday service, I viewed it as an opportunity to facilitate a community's healing.
The congregation had recently sustained a number of deaths, and the minister wanted to facilitate a dialogue among the congregants who were having difficulty talking about the losses. After the reading, twenty stayed. It was six months after we first found the lump. Between the breast surgeries and the metastases and the strokes, she was gone.
Die now! My Dad was in coma for weeks. He got agitated and made sounds, but he couldn't talk. The doctors said there wasn't much they could do. I sat on the edge of the bed and held his hand. We'll be O. I couldn't do him any good like that. Then, when I was out of the room, his heart stopped, and I wasn't there. Nine years it's been. I don't think I'll ever forgive myself. He's in a wheelchair…a gunshot wound when he was sixteen. He takes care of our Mom. He does it all. He washes for her. He cooks. He cuts watermelon. He's a blessing, he is.
I just can't do it. He blames me, but what can I do? Some people just aren't cut out for it. I don't cry. When they're gone, they're gone… nothing more. I work in the movie business. People come and go. We can be close for six months, work together every day, then it's on to the next project. I may never see them again.
That's what it was like when my friend Ernie died… like he's out there somewhere, too involved with another project to call. That's nothing unusual for Ernie. Time just passes. People say there's something wrong with me. I don't know. Sometimes I wonder. In the end, she's still gone, no matter how I work it out. We were fifteen. I've got children now. I love my wife, but my sister… She was all of our heroes… tall with dark red hair. She drowned going after a ball. I saw her go out, and I heard her yell.
When she went under, I saw her. My cancer was removed ten years ago. Between the surgeries and the chemo and the complications, it was all I could do to live day-to-day.
Now it's been ten years. I'm beginning to believe I have a future. I've lost a lot of friends along the way, but we were there for each other. Then we hugged and we touched. Then we left. For more on the ways in which poetry is employed as a therapeutic tool, you can refer to the following references 23 — In Chinese, the written character for poem is composed of two characters, one means word and the other means temple.
Together they mean poem. The wisdom of poetry is in the combination of the sacred and the word as illustrated by the character in Chinese. Healing is frequently thought of as taking place at the level of the individual. But if healing is viewed as a process that brings us back to wholeness, then in addition to happening within the individual patient, healing can also take place between patient and family members, between patient and the larger community of which they are a part, and even at the level of the community as a whole.
In fact healing is often necessary on many of these levels simultaneously. In many indigenous cultures, illness is viewed as the individual falling into disharmony with the community, so that in order to heal the individual, their place in the larger order must also be restored. In many West African indigenous cultures, proverbs are told in the oral tradition of poetry. Kykosa Kajangu from the Congo has collected these proverbs and integrated them into what he terms Wisdom Poetry personal communication.
In one African tribe, when a woman is pregnant, the women of the community assemble in the forest and listen for the new child's song. When they hear it, they bring it back to the community and sing it in public. When the child is born, the song is sung again. When the child goes through ceremonial rites of puberty and marriage, it is sung again.
And, when the child grows old and is dying, it is sung again. But, it is also sung when the child has broken with the community, committed a crime, or otherwise fallen out of harmony. The people tell themselves and each other who they are in the order of things, and can thereby bring themselves back into harmony with the world. The healing concerns of palliative care do not reside only with the patients. In , during my father's terminal illness, a friend of mine contracted a nasal sinus cancer, which was thought to be benign. After several surgeries, all of which were too-little-too-late, the tumor spread into her skull and invaded her brain.
When last I left my friend Ruth Ellen, the surgery to remove the frontal bone left her with a step on her forehead. When we went out, she wore hats. Today I'll visit her in her room. The tumor is no longer benign. In her head in her eye in what now appears to be the end of her life is my life. The end game. What a relief to know all that is left is to live.
Time becomes pudding, pudding air, thick and everywhere. These are the best times of our lives, these pudding days of grace when gardens are our guide. They finally took her eye. Don't mind. When I arrived at the house, her daughter Molly gave me a hug. She'd gone slightly stiff. I walked in and looked out the back window. The garden was beautiful and overgrown, wet with new rain. I almost missed her in her chair at the table, sitting there eating avocado, sliced and laid out flat.
She looked cute in her bonnet and patch. Oh carry me wind for I am air; she's gonna lose her hair I fear she's gonna lose her hair and hibiscus's blooms and hummingbirds' wings and deep dark earth held our future as we shared the last bite of avocado. Ruth Ellen rose then retired to bed. Her black cat waited under the covers after licking Ruth's plate. I read them poetry. We all tempted fate. I am gifted too, but unrealized.
I don't know if I'll write. I don't know if I can. Whenever I try, it seems distant or removed. You must start with your own spoken voice, which is alive, not distant, here and now: your house, your garden, the crabgrass, a bloom the light playing through the leaves the mud that kept you company in the living room. You remember the last bite of avocado creamy and green a friend your bonnet, the beeping IV Molly, kinked by your arm, the cat black and close— everything rich and scented with you.
This is your poetry. This is your life. I went to the house to her room. Her face looked like a pumpkin swollen red and round as a plate. Her left eye was gone. She didn't wear a vanity patch anymore. I kissed her on the cheek. Sometimes it scares me. I'm shedding, like wings. Sometimes I come out whole; sometimes it's an onion. Maybe I'm emerging. Sometimes I feel it.
It's not nothing. It's something else.
Explore poetry from the inside out
You know me, Robert, I don't get all mystical, but something's happening. I'm shedding from the inside. It's all falling away— beliefs, relationships— all falling. It's good you've come. Dying's no big thing anymore, It's a way to go. When I sat at my friend's side while she was dying and we wrote words like snow and shed wings, I was witness and scribe. We wrote poetry together, She and I. We wrote poetry. My father is scheduled for surgery tomorrow. They're replacing the clogged artery in his leg with a vein graft, also from his leg. The incision will run from his groin to his foot.
If they don't replace the artery, the toe will turn gangrenous, and he could die from infection. If they cut off the toe, the stump may not heal from the lack of circulation, so they have to replace the artery first, and the artery in the other leg, well, that can wait for now, but it will need replacement too, if he lives. My father called the other day. He told me a story from his childhood about a man who owned a one horse shay. The axle broke so he took it to the blacksmith to have it repaired. In it, a wife of 25 years speaks of her role as caregiver 2. I felt frozen at first.
As things went worse for his body there was a kind of condensation— like distilling our future into a very tiny space. Everything became condensed into moments of closeness. I became a better person. I stretched. Sometimes I wanted to sleep. Sometimes I wanted to hide. I was overwhelmed. I was envious of people. The humor we shared wasn't about jokes. It was about being silly. You can't be silly with just anyone. It's a real loss.
I knew the minute he died. It was like he shrunk into his body. The soul may linger for a while, But it didn't linger in that body. What was left was left in our hearts, not in the bed. I came up with this amazing idea That everything now is surreal, And the surreal is the new reality. I just thought of something wonderful.
No matter how long we were together, There was always more. I wrote a poem. Here are a few lines.
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Nothing of love is ever lost. You take each other in. The poetry and brain cancer project also produced poetry that presented a different sort of perspective. The first question most brain cancer patients ask is, How long do I have to live? I'll tell you how to Figure it out. First, think of a number. Any number.
Now, this is where it gets a little tricky … Add the number of your surviving relatives Immediate family only please. Divide by your estimated percentage hair loss. Subtract one quarter of the number of seizures per month. Multiply by the amount of times you cry.