Revisited

by Quinten Neil Anderson

There’s that thing, again. It’s that thing in a poem that keeps you silent for a few minutes after reading. It’s that thing that you can’t quite place, that lingers around the page; not quite in the margins, not quite between the lines. With no particular certainty may it be explained.

But there it is, again, and you think you know it when you see it. It’s why you keep reading and writing poems. It’s palpable only in common air. This is to say that you must be with the poem for its duration, and even when you are, it escapes quickly. In a moment you dictate, in your head, what you will say, and open your lips to articulate—but it’s gone. This is why it never came up in any of your workshops—or it did, but it was never named. Or it was, but not exactly the way you thought of it, felt it, or meant it.

It’s why I keep reading and writing poems. It’s what I look for in a poem; yet I, too, cannot name it. I don’t think I would like to. It’s the reason for so many discussions about aesthetics, about single words, about the minutest syntactical occurrences. We discuss it with such words as diction, line-break, and enjambment. We attempt to argue points based on sets of rules and codes, which guide us, and allow others to follow our lines of thought. Of course, these are necessary rules and codes for communicating and maintaining consistent aesthetics, whatever the framework for the discussion may be.

But again, before any of these rules and words for communication come out of our mouths, there it is. Freud called it, “the uncanny.”  It is something that knows no time or spatial boundaries. It knows no race, religion, or culture. It is that which precedes ah-ha! This is only intended to be a gentle reminder that poems are of feeling first, of thought second, and lastly of words.

Poetry & The Hidden Present

by Jay Sheets

I’ve taken on a pretty exhausting, yet exhilarating challenge this semester: to demystify the creative process by examining not only the psychology of poetry, but the link between poetic inspiration and ritual across cultures and oral histories.

Poets and psychologists could argue all day about what the meaning of ‘inspiration’ is. The etymological definition is ‘the picture to oneself,’ but the overall consensus I’ve found so far is that poetic inspiration is a call to create, derived from image (mnemonic, archetypal, literal), derived from ritual. I’ve never met a poet who didn’t have a ritual, an act to call a poem forth by placing themselves in a necessary space (physically, emotionally, a balance of both) to charge their creative batteries, and connect to the ever-mysterious stream of creative consciousness. Whether it is sitting down with a coffee and a blank computer screen with headphones on, performing an ancient shamanic dance, or experiencing a walking meditation through the woods, it’s all a form of poetic ritual. This, hopefully, results in a story and a feeling of freedom from creating something new, from experiencing something new, that’s always seemed to be present.

In Poetry and Prophecy by N.K. Chadwick, the author speaks to a ‘hidden present’ in relation to inspiration and knowledge which I, as a poet, find absolutely fascinating. Chadwick states, “The association of inspiration and knowledge of whatever kind acquired by supernatural means is ancient and widespread. Inspiration, in fact, relates to revealed knowledge. Revelation covers the whole field of human consciousness. It includes knowledge of the past and the hidden present, as well as the future.” These supernatural means Chadwick is speaking to are the rituals throughout history which result in poetic utterance, or simply, poetry.

I’d always been called to write, but it wasn’t until I recently began to deconstruct my creative processes that I saw what my writing was asking of me, and why the act of writing spoke to me when nothing and no one else ever could. When looking at ritual, imagery (or imagination, if you prefer), and finished literary works from a phenomenological point of view, in my relation to memories and physical and emotional environments throughout my life, it became evident that writing poetry, had been an act of recognizing and reconstructing, or ‘remembering,’ my personal mythology. We all have our own mythologies; the untold stories swirling deep inside that tell of our childhood traumas, current fears, loves, wonders and wants. Poetry has been the literary tool I’ve needed in order to look back through the present to look forward.

As you may be able to tell by now, I’m still deep in these studies. I invite you to take a closer look at your writerly ritual, how you use your imagination (or how your imagination uses you), and what inspiration does for you on an internal level. Since the advent of language, words have been known to carry power. Isn’t ‘spelling’ considered to be a form of casting a spell, on either ourselves or our readers? We want to evoke emotion, so I think it’s safe to say yes. Poets and writers are alchemists of language, carefully transforming images of the ‘hidden present’ as words see fit.

So, when an image pops into mind, in that ‘ah-hah!’ moment in our writerly heads where divine inspiration seems all too real, I invite you to ask what that image is asking of you in terms of your own personal mythology. Are we poets really our own psychotherapists? It seems like a reasonable theory; even Jung couldn’t satisfactorily define the poetic process.

Aren’t the simplest explanations often the right ones? When we look deeper into the spaces in which our work calls to us, we often find answers to questions we’ve not yet learned how to ask. We find out how amazing is it to have been given the gift of word, the power of language, and to help answer the questions of our ‘hidden present.’

Pegasus Reading Series

by Catherine Chambers

My little brother just turned twenty, which warranted a surprise visit to see my family. I have temporarily traded the cold rains of Denver for the warm, muggy rains of my hometown: Dallas, Texas. Over the past few years, my beloved Dallas has been experiencing an artistic facelift. Once a strictly business town, Dallas is now home to things like backyard Shakespeare, a huge burlesque population, Deep Vellum Publishing, and (luckily for me) a blossoming community of writers which includes organizations like WordSpace.

From their website: WordSpace is a non-profit literary organization that supports education and writers, connecting Dallas with the best of world literature. Founded in 1994, the organization hosts authors, readings, student workshops, concerts and salons to promote established and emerging artists who use imaginative language in traditional and experimental forms. Through diverse, multi-cultural programs, WordSpace enhances the development of language artists of all ages, facilitates communication throughout the literary community, and contributes to expanding the Dallas literary scene to the widest possible audience.

WordSpace has partnered with Kettle Arts, a Deep Ellum gallery, to create the Pegasus Reading Series. The reading I attended last night featured poets Tim Cloward, Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick, and Jenny Molberg, along with fiction writer Merritt Tierce. The art gallery was brightly lit but somehow intimate. All four authors were starkly different from each other, and yet with each one I found myself making that “mmph” sound of approval that those of us who have been to a few readings are familiar with. The work was engaging and heartfelt, and it made for a very pleasant evening. 

This reading series occurs monthly and includes and open mic after the featured readings. If you should ever find yourself in Dallas and in need of poetry and free wine, I would definitely recommend this event. 

Hosts/curators Robert Torres & Sebastian H. Paramo, with poetry editor Catherine Chambers

Hosts/curators Robert Torres & Sebastian H. Paramo, with poetry editor Catherine Chambers