"We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out." ---Ray Bradbury
Usually I let the Friday quote stand alone, but today some thoughts on Bradbury's words are chasing themselves around in my head. I have not been writing much of late. Here on the blog, yes, but not poetry, and not on topics of particularly deep concern. Call it a period of gestation; call it laziness; call it writer's block; call it what you will. I know its truest nature is my own unwillingness to see with "poet-vision".
Beth at Inscapes asked me on her latest meme, "When do you *see* the things you *show* us in your poems? Do your eyes ever just pass over the world as mine do, or do you always see things the way I always narrate events?"
I recognize the things that spill into my work only when I've come to a point of surrender, usually through physical exaustion or emotional despair. The cup, though, is always filling, always filling, always filling somewhere underneath the surface, deep beneath my desperate attempts to block its subterranean source with trivialities: compulsive reading, eating, internet perusing, cleaning closets, mopping floors--anything to block its flow. I can tell you why so many writers have been alcoholics and suicides: it hurts to "*see*". The vision is unquestionable, definitive, certain and strong, both in intensity of light and in depth of darkness, and for the poet, often it isn't just a matter of seeing (as in witnessing) these things, but a even more a matter of becoming at once both the light and darkness within the poem, especially during the writing process. There is beautiful stuff within the cup, yes, but it is so exquisitely lovely because its beginning was unlovliness. A poet is an alchemist who transforms not lead, but dung, usually his or her own, with no guarantee of gold as the end result of the process.
So, to answer your question, Beth, yes, the deepest part of me does continually interpret the world around me through transformative vision, but it's too painful to live a daily life from this place, so I "block" its insight purposefully (and too often compulsively) in order to be able to function like I think a "normal" person should. Not doing this would be the emotional and spiritual equivalent of walking around having had one's skin flayed from the flesh.
The blocking itself is problematic in other ways, of course. A guard can only be on watch so long before weariness decreases his or her effectiveness. That's what happened last night. I'd been blocking to the point of sleeplessness, and Teri's post yesterday on Bo of the Bales contained an unintentional challenge, one that an intrinsically contrary person such as myself could hardly pass up: to turn an unwelcome and somewhat bizzare phone call about menstruation and irritable bowel syndrome into something of literary value. My full intent in posting my reply (draft-y though it was) in the comments was to be satirical and above all, clever. Instead the cup tipped, and I got broadsided with not entirely comfortable observations on the human condition. Good insights, but not particularly warm fuzzy ones. Granted, this poem wasn't especially painful to write, but years of guarding the cup have made it harder to tip and made me more cautious about allowing it to do so, since I've no idea from poem to poem whether the "beautiful stuff" inside will be in its raw or refined form.