"Our Lady of the Grocery Lilies"
How many artists and poets have you heard describe the event of simply 'receiving' a line for a poem or a musical harmony, as if it dropped right out of the sky, complete and into their ear? This is the ever-elusive 'muse' which we court, adore and hate for her fickleness. This is the unconscious, the invisible and unexplained. I often have had my best ideas for poems just come to me unexpectedly, when I was not particularly thinking about it, but was in a relaxed, meditative state. I often feel I am like a radio tuning in to a station, and every once in awhile I can hear those songs, take down the words. The voice in which certain lines have come to me does feel like a voice of 'other.' I just know that it sounds different in my head; it seems far beyond my ego and personality. However, these fleeting inspirations are not going to be with the poet all the time, at least not with this poet and most! It is the rare piece of art or poem which comes to us complete, without needing much more work. Poetry does require the use of our intellect, ego and personality to put it all together, to connect the unconscious and unexplainable with a bit of structure and coherence.
The task at hand may sound quite daunting, and it can be, but as Adrienne Rich described, art is so powerful because it taps something beyond our intellect; it brings forth those secret wisdoms (that the artist is often not aware of until uncovering them through the process of creation) and it produces something physical, immediate and relatable that an audience can experience. Camille Paglia talks about this role of the poet in bringing forth other realities to the page in the introduction to her book Break, Blow, Burn: "The concentrated attention demanded by poetry is close to meditation. Reading a poem requires alert receptivity, perceptual openness, and intuition. Commentary on poetry is a kind of divination, resembling the practice of oracles, sibyls, augurs, and interpreters of dreams. Poets have glimpses of other realities, higher or lower, which can't be fully grasped cognitively. The poem is a methodical working out of fugitive impressions. It finds or rather projects symbols into the inner and outer worlds."