When I write “to” prompts I invest myself in a keen examination of the prompt itself. I say “to” prompts, because often, I don’t write “to” them, I write around them, about them, and even away from them. The preposition “to” often signifies language that presupposes we are going to a destination that is clear, and terminal, in the sense we have an endpoint in mind.
Though there are so many things that we have in common agreement in order to use language at all, each of us uses language uniquely after our own fashion. These specific, and sometimes unnoticed differences reveal our slant on life, among other things. Is language a utilitarian tool to resolve the world into binaries of black and white, day and night, right and wrong? Or is language a capacitator for the exploration and holding of ambivalence, mystery, the numinous and the sacred? Is the language we use a conscious understanding that all words are by nature an interpretation? Or is our use of a language more doctrinaire in nature? Do our words explore our world, or put a fence around it? We have the privilege, and the task, of doing both. In our individual styles, we tend towards one or the other, a joy of self-expression.
Most communications in speaking and writing, are offered as a terminal, a destination that we consider final. It is clear that most words are initiated to confirm the precise, exact, and utilitarian nature of our communicative journey. I say this to remind myself that this is not how, or why, I write. I am happy to say that I am aware of my own inclinations and purposes in writing, and I embrace them. It is blissful to know that poetry exists as an every-ready counterpoint to all these nuts and bolts.
But back to the beginning: the prompt. Prompt: a word that means “to create readiness,” or to nudge someone into a learning forgotten, or to incite action, derived from Latin: “promere” which means to “bring forth. So, in this readiness adventure, the next term for careful examination is the word “poem.” I would venture to say that a poem is a verbal and written construct that moves our mouths and pens towards the ambivalent, the mysterious, the numinous, the sacred. Towards all that which has multiple meanings; multiple meanings even beyond the words. I think Etel Adnan, the esteemed Lebanese American poet and media artist said it best when she said: “Poetry has nothing to do with words, but it needs them.” Poetry is the sublimation of utility into observation and appreciation. Poetry is an examination of sensory experience, thoughts, feelings, and states of mind which seeks to understand them better by finding what they say in and of themselves, without words: when I allow myself to go where the voice poetry wants to take me.
I have found with joy that my particular art form has moved into an amphibious coalescence. My natural form of expression is a combination of prose and poetry. By combining the two, I am able to explore and to liberate myself from my own limited views, which, alas, are legion.
Alan Ginsberg has a powerful definition of Haiku beyond the typical 5-7-5 template. He says Haiku is a form of concentrated writing which “makes the mind leap.” He says: “The only real measure of a haiku, is upon hearing one, your mind experiences a small sensation of space — which is nothing less than God.” [Goldberg, Natalie. “Three Simple Lines (p. 4)]. I venture that this representation of Haiku stands well as a definition of poetry itself, too.
I would like to tell you that I write my prose/poetry, and my rare poem or two. But that wouldn’t be quite true. As Adnan says poetry is not about words in the end. It is about a transference of experience in holy space. It is being quiet enough to allow God to speak. Because the language of poetry is so concentrated, and so much abounds with alternative and multiple meanings intertwined, I give a conscious nod, a bow, and surrender to the voices of the sacred that do the actual writing.
No, I don’t write poetry, or at least try not to. When a poem arises, it is a voice from within and beyond, and it writes itself, hopefully leaving space for a reader or listener to incorporate it into their own journey. Poetry is a way we both share, and differentiate, our very selves. As our self is expressed through our words, and all the space around them, the very meaning of life itself is revealed. And honored. And heard.