One must feel how the birds fly

Here is a beautiful quote from Rainier Maria Rilke :

“For verses are not, as people imagine, simply feelings (those one has early enough), -they are experiences. For the sake of a single verse, one must see many cities, men and things, one must know the animals, one must feel how the birds fly and know the gesture with which the little flowers open in the morning.” -Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

I see photography as a means to gaining the experiences required to write poetry. Some times photography acts an experience in itself , opening up vistas hitherto unknown . In the process of gathering material for photography one ends up collecting experiences which are later converted into poetry.

” For the sake of a single verse, one must see many cities,men and things,one must know the animals, one must feel how the birds fly and know the gesture with which the little flowers open in the morning “

Just check how the poet has captured the crows flying in the following lines:

Kintyre by Alexandra Ekkelenkam
in these days I rise
rise
with crows
dawn on their feathers
screeching
copper on metal throats
cutting through clouds
awakening
awakening the grey sun
whilst I rise
rise
painted wrists flapping
catching air between fingers
dropping Memory
into an ornate lake

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“Mirror” by Sylvia Plath

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.

Whatever I see I swallow immediately

Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.

I am not cruel, only truthful-

The eye of the little god, four cornered.

Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.

It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long

I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.

Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,

Searching my reaches for what she really is.

Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.

I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.

She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.

I am important to her. She comes and goes.

Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.

In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman

Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.


The words are beautiful and crisp :

I am silver and exact.

Later,

Now I am a lake.

”I am silver and exact” is an extremely pretty usage .And very crisp . A similar usage comes later in the poem:

Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

A concrete noun(faces) combined with an abstract noun (darkness) makes for an interesting usage .

The other beautiful images are :”unmisted by love or dislike”(A mirror’s reflection is impaired by mist),”most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall(when there are no faces the mirror reflects the wall during the day and darkness at night),”in me she has drowned a young girl(the lake or the mirror have seen the “death” of the young girl and her transformation into an old woman),”like a terrible fish (old age rises above the reflection in the lake as an ugly fish rises above the waters).

“There’s a certain slant of light ” by Emily Dickinson

 


There’s a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.

Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings are.

None may teach it anything,
‘Tis the seal, despair,-
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air.

When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath;
When it goes, ‘t is like the distance

On the look of death.

 

 

 
The poem by Emily Dickinson talks about the somber mood of a winter afternoon which is oppressive and hangs like death. The cathedral tunes are heavy enough and  like them the winter evening slant ,instead of flooding the place with orange light ,has filled it with gloom. The despondency is beyond amelioration as though it has come from the heavens and the seal seems  irrevocably fixed.

 While the poem is about death and is pretty gloomy,  the imagery in the last stanza is brilliant. ‘When it comes, the landscape listens and shadows hold their breath “- is a pretty evocative image. The beauty of the image is achieved through humanizing abstract entities like “a certain slant of light”,” landscape”,” shadows”. The last line “it is like the distance/On the look of death” is another highly visual image referring to the blank stare of a dead person which appears focused on a  far  away thing.

 

 

 

 

Rilke’s letters to a young poet

In his 3rd letter to the young poet Rilke talks about literary criticism. Read as little of criticism as possible, he advises the young man, because such opinions are partisan or  petrified opinions devoid of life.

 Works of art are of an infinite solitude and no means of approach is as useless as criticism .Only love can touch and hold them and be fair to them.

 The words are beautiful and ring so true. Criticism  reduces a work of art to a lifeless entity capable of being dissected publicly for its merits and demerits. The appreciation of art can only be done through an exquisite sensibility born out of love and feeling, not through ratiocination. Wordsworth has defined poetry as the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings .Our response to poetry should therefore be guided by feelings and not by intellect.

 Rilke advocates patience in fully arriving at the beauty of a work of art as no  amount of intellect helps to guide us through the essential beauty of the work without a sensibility born of love and feeling:

Always trust yourself and your own feeling, as opposed to argumentations, discussions, or introductions of that sort; if it turns out that you are wrong, then the natural growth of your inner life will eventually guide you to other insights. Allow your judgments their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened. Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating…”

“Talking in bed ” by Philips Larkin


Talking in bed ought to be easiest,
Lying together there goes back so far,
An emblem of two people being honest.
Yet more and more time passes silently.
Outside, the wind’s incomplete unrest
Builds and disperses clouds in the sky,
And dark towns heap up on the horizon.
None of this cares for us. Nothing shows why
At this unique distance from isolation
It becomes still more difficult to find
Words at once true and kind,
Or not untrue and not unkind.

“Dark towns heap up on the horizon” is a highly imaginative image which has drawn me towards this poem.The other pretty image is “the wind’s incomplete unrest builds and disperses clouds in the sky”.”Words at once true and kind”  immediately followed by ” or “not untrue and not unkind” is cleverly cynical adding a bit of flippancy to the dialogue between the lovers.



Kintyre by Alexandra Ekkelenkamp

in these days I rise
rise
with crows
dawn on their feathers
screeching
copper on metal throats
cutting through clouds
awakening
awakening the grey sun
whilst I rise
rise
painted wrists flapping
catching air between fingers
dropping Memory
into an ornate lake

“Screeching copper on metal throats “is an exquisite image,almost onamatopoeic.Till I read this poem a while ago I did not know that the image , a variation of which has been used by me in one of my poems earlier,could occur to somebody else.”Dawn on their feathers” is another pretty image.But the most beautiful image is that of “painted wrists flapping ,catching air between fingers”.How evocative !

“Let’s you and I sit down”-Nona Sepakova

Let’s you and I sit down, two elderly sprites.
In the kitchenette drinking coffee.
Wherever you look – magical trophies:
A white coffee pot, blue plastic mugs,
A decorative board for bread.
And on the finger, a little ring with amber,
And the storm clouds of a newly constructed sky
Over this peopled wasteland.

This is the same Waste Land which T.S.Eliot spoke of ,when April,the cruellest month bred lilacs out of the dead land ,mixing memory and desire and stirring dull roots with spring rain.The two elderly spirits(spirits!) sit here drinking coffee amongst the magical trophies collected in their youth while storm clouds gather in a recently constructed sky.