Creative Wordshops October 2019 Writing Newsletter

Dear writer, reader, seeker of images, believers in words

Third Eye, Third Ear
now the ears of my ears awake …the eyes of my eyes are opened (ee cummings)
In Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain, Enzo the racing driver’s philosophic dog becomes our teacher:
“In racing, they say that your car goes where your eyes go. The driver who cannot tear his eyes away from the wall as he spins out of control will meet that wall; the driver who looks down the track as he feels his tires break free will regain control of his vehicle….

I cannot speak, so I listen… never interrupt, I never change the course of the conversation with a comment of my own. People, if you pay attention to them, change the direction of one another’s conversations constantly. It’s like having a passenger in your car who suddenly grabs the steering wheel and turns you down a side street…Pretend you are a dog like me and listen to other people rather than steal their stories.”

The writer’s back car window sports a double LL plate. Looking. Listening. Sight leads to insight. This letter circles round a past theme, hopefully with new insights and nuance. TS Eliot: “One has only learnt to get the better of words for the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which one is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate.” So in the month of Octember (thank you Dr Seuss) let me attempt that raid.

When writing The Writer’s Voice workbook I placed this quote as preface for it is seminal to our writing:

Go to the pine if you want to learn about the pine, or to the bamboo if you want to learn about the bamboo. And in doing so you must let go of your subjective preoccupation with yourself. Otherwise you impose yourself on the object and you don’t learn. Your poetry arises by itself when you and the object have become one, when you have plunged deep enough into the object to see something like a hidden light glimmering there, However well-phrased your poetry might be, if your feeling isn’t natural – if you and the object are separate – then your poetry isn’t true poetry but merely your subjective counterfeit.(Matsuo Basho)

And Rilke:
[…nothing has ever been real without my beholding it. All becoming has needed me. My looking ripens things And they come toward me, to meet and be met….
In a recent retreat I shared this Basho and Rilke and asked retreatants to
observe in this spirit, an aspect of nature. I had spoken earlier of the monks who took rags off corpses, sewed them up as robes and dyed them in saffron (At this retreat we donned saffron robes when we observed – that word again – silence). Jenna-Lee returned with “the flower is meditating in its saffron robe.” Perhaps this is what Wordsworth meant by “…with an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things.” A palimpsest (a manuscript with writing superimposed on effaced earlier writing still bearing visible traces of its earlier form) is a metaphor for this kind of gaze. We see too what is partly obscured yet ghosts as a presence.

I’m wondering about images that shock us into attention, into third eye sight – that are perhaps absurd at a literal level yet stab into the emotional gut of the imagination. In Rilke’s autobiographical fiction (The Notebook of Malte Laurids Brigge) the Danish poet in Paris observes faces. On the corner of Rue Notre- Dame-Dame-des-Champs he comes across a woman “sunk into herself, her head in her hands.” His clattering footsteps in an empty street disturb her:

The woman took fright and was torn too quickly out of herself, too violently, so that her face remained in her two hands. I could see it lying in them, its hollow form. It cost me an indescribable effort to keep my eyes on these hands and not look at what had been torn out of them. I shuddered to see a face thus from the inside, but I was still more afraid of the naked flayed head without a face. Is that what T S Eliot’s “Every moment is a new and shocking revelation of all we have been .” could mean?