Slight horizontal wrinkle (yawwwn)

The poet Ted Hughes grappled with the difficulties of trying to describe something or someone, in writing, in such a way as to bring that person or thing “into life”.

… you don’t make things any better when you try to fit
the picture grain by grain into the reader’s imagination,
as if you were trying to paint it there carefully, as in:

“His brow at the height of his eyebrows, was precisely
seven and a quarter inches across, and from the lowest
root of the hair at the mid-point of the hairline along
the upper brow, to the slight horizontal wrinkle in the
saddle of his nose, measured three inches exact. His
hair was the colour of a rough coconut, parted on the
left, closely cropped over the ears and up the back,
but perfectly straight, and with no single hair, on any
part of his head, more than two and two-thirds inches
long”.

Ted Hughes
Poetry in the Making, page 43

Alive description is not easily achieved, even for the great poets, whose valiant attempts to do so we appreciate so much. How much have we learned about the man with the seven and a quarter inch brow – if we stayed awake? How alive has he become for us? Not much.

Perhaps this teaches us something about human perception. Would my description of a mutual friend of ours – however lively, colourful or attractive, be an adequate portrait of the mutual friend that you see, know or knew? Probably we’d hold a few perceptions in common but – like it or not – each of us would have a different, altogether personal, view.

As each day dawns I spend more and more time contemplating the richness of our unity in diversity – things we share in common, alongside profound differences of perception. And the diversity is not something we need to go to war over: it’s co-creative, deliberate, evolving, intentional – something to leap up and down and celebrate. Unity and diversity are each elements that bring persons, or creatures, or things, or worlds, or the Universe “alive”.

Something inwardly portable

Yesterday I wrote of American poet Edgar Allan Poe and the subject of beauty, and of English poet Ted Hughes suggesting to children that poems may lend a measure of permanence to a thing – something, at least, that might have a life beyond that of the poet. And – as so often – one thing leads to another; that’s how it is with poetry, the great galleries and the little sitting rooms of our remembering and articulation, that’s how it is within the libraries of heart and mind and bookcase. Today I’ve come across thought not dissimilar to that of either of the above. Art critic John Berger wrote:

All the languages of art have been developed as an
attempt to transform the instantaneous into the
permanent. Art supposes that beauty is not an exception
– is not, in despite of – but is the basis for an order …
Art is an organised response to what nature allows us to
glimpse occasionally … The transcendental face of art
is always a form of prayer.

John Berger
The White Bird, writings edited by Lloyd Spencer, page 9

Perhaps the host of art forms, the “poetry” we make in our own lives – in our homes, in our various arts, creativity and employment, in partnership, family life and friendship, in the communities in which we live, and in our wider shared experiences – are our attempts to co-create something inwardly portable, like treasured keepsakes, of life-elements in this world that are essentially transient. The Creator of all that is, including all we have loved, all who have loved us, all that we have helped to create – invites us, beautifully, (to pinch a line from a gorgeous, if not entirely related, Chris de Burgh song – YouTube here) to

Carry Me, (Like A Fire In Your Heart)

even as we ourselves are carried …

Supreme development

Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development,
invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears. Melancholy
is thus the most legitimate of all the poetical tones.

Edgar Allan Poe, 1809-1849
in the Essay The Philosophy of Composition

(Tales, Sketches and Selected Criticism here)

I rather want to protest “the most legitimate …” – though one hardly dares, given the tragedies the poet endured – but, anyway, a bit of reflection sees truth here, too. It is often, indeed, in moments of melancholy that I’m most keenly attuned to beauty’s being beauty because, by whatever hand or means, it has, precisely, undergone “supreme development” – and yes, sight, scent, hearing, touch or taste of that kind of creation does move me to tears. And I’m always – afterwards if not immediately – profoundly grateful for that.

The English poet Ted Hughes, writing for children, in Poetry in the Making, about his The Thought-Foxsaid:

And I suppose that long after I am gone, as long
as a copy of the poem exists, every time anyone
reads it the fox will get up somewhere out in
the darkness and come walking towards them.

So, you see, in some ways my fox is better than an
ordinary fox. It will live forever, it will never
suffer from hunger or hounds. I have it with me
wherever I go. And I made it. And all through
imagining it clearly enough and finding the living
words.

Ted Hughes

I wonder what any of us, in moments of melancholy, moved to tears, might find ourselves “imagining … clearly enough and finding the living words” for? The “Divine Word”, the poets, and – yes – melancholy sometimes, are calling us to co-creation: to “supreme development”. Life’s about getting down to it!