Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Our bodies, our poems?

Must the physical and the spiritual be mutually exclusive? A few months ago during dinner, some colleagues were discussing that feeling of having poetic limits, and how one might get past or through them.

At the time, I tried (ineptly) to use a physical metaphor—running. Imagine that you're running as fast as you can, trying to beat someone in a race, and suddenly you dig down and find out that you can run even harder—harder than you ever have before. My metaphor fell flat. My colleague explained that he was looking for a spiritual answer.

Certainly my years as a modern dancer make me biased, and I still like the metaphor—even if I haven't quite figured out how to apply it to poetry. But I continued to think about whether there has to be a divide between the body and the physical self. And that led me to think of the physical rites that are used to connect with the spiritual: everything from tribal dances to the Whirling Dervishes to the rituals of the Shakers. What about Yoga and T'ai Chi? The physical experience as a path to some deep place beyond the physical.

I often think of poetry as coming from a place of stillness, but I've found that walking, riding my bike, or working in the garden helps release me into that mental stillness from which ideas and poems can emerge.

That gives me two paths of physical-spiritual inquiry: going beyond the current limits and connecting to the quiet source. And I need to work on getting more of that physical rhythm—that energy—into my poems.

Do you ever feel a connection between the two? (Or does this make no sense at all?)

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