By Elizabeth Kirschner
This is what I’ve been up to lately, mentoring poets of all ages and stages through a program called: Wise Eye: Creating Poetry That Soars. In this way I become the student of words that are not my own while seeking to kindle passion in those who bring poems to me. I believe, after writing for some thirty-five years, in Eugene Montale’s dictum, “that genius is one long passion” and that the harvest which comes from cultivating that passion is rich indeed.
As mentor I must teach other lovers of the poem to let it have, as Juan Ramon Jimenez insists, both roots and wings. These roots must have wings and the wings must have roots. A good poem levitates just above the page with lines that delicately delineate its root system thus letting the words fly in. That’s when it sings. A paradox then, the poem is silence that sings.
I also think that poems are embodiments of soul and our souls need to be in motion in order to cause movement, a waltz of words across the page. Roots and wings, song and dance, all done via the scripture of language. This scripture can be taught, must be taught because the illusion of poetry is to make it look effortless and sound like natural speech. This does not come naturally. Thoroughly crafted entities, simple or ornate, all poems are little houses of prayer.
Poets are the givers of attention to the least of things: moths flying into the flame, tiny mirrors reflecting deep, deep waters. I awoke last night thinking about what I deem as the articulate detail, one that speaks within and beyond itself. Details are fireflies alighting on the tip of our tongues. Thing-ness is all-ness and the difference between statement and implication is a crucial one to understand.
This, too, does not come naturally to the poet. Detail enlarged into image enlarged into metaphor takes mega-power. Plath called poems “monuments to the moment.” Those monuments are not abstractions, but intuited by the senses as they are what make the universe tangible.
I know I can help other poets create their own wings without neglecting the need to be rooted. Simone Weil wrote, “to be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the soul.” Yes, yes, indeed. As one little girl stated, “silence reminds me to take my soul with me wherever I go.” Soul-traveling then sets the poem in motion.
The white space surrounding our words is, ultimately, our piece of sky to soar in and may it be heavenly. These words are very near us. They are in our mouths and in the roots of our heartstrings. Let us tug and pluck, sing and flap like fledglings into the proper dwelling each poem mitigates. In essence, we are all writing God’s poem created by roots that fly and wings that take root in the forever fecund field of the pure, white page.
Author Bio: Elizabeth Kirschner has published three books of poetry, Twenty Colors, Postal Routes and Slow Risen Among the Smoke Trees, all by Carnegie-Mellon University Press. In addition, she has a CD released by Albany Records with her own poetry set to Robert Schumann’s Dichterliebe, now titled The Dichterliebe in Four Seasons. She’s now participating in a WOW Blog Tour with her latest book. My Life as a Doll is a survivor’s tale, a memoir in verse about child abuse, madness and recovery. To learn more about Elizabeth’s work, visit www.elizabethkirschner.com, and for upcoming dates on her blog tour visit www.wow-womenonwriting.com/blog.
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