I know the truth—give up all other truths!

November 28, 2010  |  Uncategorized

I know the truth!—give up all other truths!

So proclaims a 23 year old Russian poet in 1915.  These lines have haunted me for 25 years.  Like a wake-up call— when ever I hear myself being prescriptive or didactic, I hear them echo.

Absolute statements are always of the ego.  See, there I go again, as if I know the truth!

She goes on to say;  No need for people anywhere on earth to struggle.

Written early in the first World War, it was prophetic and timeless in its searing irony.

Look— it is evening, look,  it is nearly night.

what do you speak of,  poets, lovers, generals?

The poet was Marina Tsvetaeva*  and although she went on to write many wonderful poems, this early one is most anthologised. * (Selected Poems, Marina Tsvetaeva translated by Elaine Feinstein)

Just like a song can get stuck playing in our minds, a poem can lodge there, popping up like a mantra at unexpected moments.  This simple poem written by such a young woman reveals layers of wisdom as I recite it over and over.

The wind is level now, the earth is wet with dew,

the storm of stars in the sky will turn to quiet.

And soon all of us will sleep under the earth, we

who never let each other sleep above it.

When I memorize part or all of a beloved poem, it becomes absorbed into my bloodstream and beats with  my heart. It expands my perception and heightens my experience of the world.

Memorizing a poem can be a wonderful meditation.  I learn it line by line, repeating them as I fall asleep and when I wake. In a stressful situation, like waiting in traffic and late for an appointment, I start repeating the poem.  This distracts and soothes me.

Learning them so intimately teaches  me more about how to write a poem than any instruction manual.  When I forget a word or part of a line, I realize how critical each word is to form the whole.  I can see the craftsmanship and perfection.

A great activity while travelling on summer holiday—bring along a favourite poem to internalise and make your own.  At Dangerously Poetic readings, we encourage poetry lovers to recite a favourite poem during the open mike  section.  When someone is passionate enough about a poem to commit it to memory, the audience feels this and is enthralled.

I once heard American poet, Galway Kinnell say, If a poem is worth writing, its worth memorizing. Audience members call out names of his vast collection of work and he can reel off the poem by heart.  I find memorizing my own poetry revealing.  It becomes clear if lines are weak. Also, I often discover another layer to what I was trying to say.  To memorize my own poem, I must fall in love with it all over again— like I did when it was first conceived.  I  must claim it and own it with every breath.

Check out our 10th December— Day retreat‑ Embracing the Wind.

Have a peaceful, easy summer !


PS- Stuck for a Christmas gift, try poetry!

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